Tuesday, January 31, 2023

It's a gift.

An eclectic start of day chat with the Manhattanites. The last Boeing 747 has rolled of the assembly line, the White House won't supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters ( but Poland would like to ) , the German Chancellor is in Brazil, Israel has attacked an Iranian munitions plant and Atlanta wants to host the Democrats 2024 Convention.

Sophie has once again fallen asleep in her 'secret ' space between the curtains and the patio doors. She waits until the phone call is over then barks to let me know where she is. The sound of her tail thwacking against the window surround had already  given her location away. Thankfully none of the 'dark suits' asked what the drumbeat noise in the background was. Every start of the day with Sophie combines theatre and laughter. Showgirl and comedienne - It's a gift.

The farmer is out picking up the last bales of hay from the big field in front of the wee cottage. 'How's yer back Angus ?' he shouts out by way of greeting. He's hoping that we get some rain. The strong , cold winds are drying out the soil. We speak about yesterdays mother of pearl clouds - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-64450253 . Far out at sea they were quite a sight. I'd only ever seen clouds like this once before. We discuss the relative merits of physiotherapists and osteopaths. The farmer may plough the field the week after next.

In the bookstore I pick up some books 'The Font' has ordered. They're open just after seven which must be some sort of record. The staff are all young, polite and enthusiastic. One of them asks me if I know this poem. I do.

At the good coffee cafe there's a queue. The students are back . Sophie is the centre of attention. Her tail wags. A German girl provides a small piece of croissant. This is gratefully received. Angus is ignored.

Easter Eggs continuing to take up ever more shelf space in the supermarket.

Unlike Haggis which seem to have been over ordered ahead of Burns night.

So starts a windy Tuesday morning on the Scottish coast with a fun loving Polish Lowland Sheepdog in search of mischief ... wherever she can find it.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Rattle and shake.

Decidedly breezy this morning. The wind strong enough to force the offshore  wind farm supply vessels into the bay and dry out the puddles along the farm track. The gutters and downpipes on the wee cottage rattle and shake.  Sophie returns from the start of day 'comfort break '  sporting her ' I've never been near a brush in my life '  look. I would groom her but this is the sort of day when tangles get tangles. 

The first session with the physiotherapist scheduled after breakfast. Dog and master have a quick scout around to make sure we know where it is. The studio seems to be on the first floor above a soap shop. Angus will get there early to allow a little extra time for climbing the stairs.

Angus and his shaggy companion detour into the trendy student cafe for an  espresso. At this time on a blustery Monday morning there are only a few brave souls out and about. The family diva is given some shortbread crumbs. 

Sophie finds that the wall behind the water bowl has been decorated. All the pictures are done on old scraps of cardboard. A bored, dog loving barista with a hidden talent ?

More bobble hats appear in shop windows. From now to the end of February is peak gale season.

This piece of art made me smile :https://louise-rawlings-art.myshopify.com/products/day-dreamer

My advice - Go to the super market before arriving somewhere this remote. There are no nearby corner shops for a pint of milk if you run out :https://57nord.co.uk/

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sacrificial rugs and 1950's French fashion.

Good morning from Sophie . After a brief start of day walk with a slow moving Angus she heads for a restorative nap on the floor by the porch door . We have to walk around her if we want to get outside but at least she's not trailing mud through the house. 'The last wee house before Denmark' has a  number of strategically located sacrificial rugs designed to absorb mud and water from getting too far inside. 

The farm shop has croissants ready to pop into the oven. It is to be hoped that these 'artisanal' ( and artisanally priced ) variants are better than the tasteless ones found in the supermarket frozen food section. They come with no indications of what temperature the oven should be set at to bake them. 

The supermarket has hyacinths by the bunch.

'The Font' goes shopping with Sophie and observes that Scottish east coast fashion offerings take their cue from 1950's French movies. St.Andrews maintains clothes shops that sell tweed caps to gentlemen farmers and resolutely impractical Audrey Hepburn clothing for their 'lady wives'. In defiance of progress ( and heated steering wheels )  this is a town where driving gloves can still be found - for those that want them. It is suggested to Angus that a trip to Stockholm for some new clothes might be in order.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

What is it now ?

During the night I've wandered the house looking for somewhere comfortable to settle down. The sofa isn't long enough and the arm chairs are too soft but the Eames chair in the window isn't bad for a sore back. The family diva has not appreciated having her night time routine interrupted. She emits a brief - but pointed -  ' What is it now ?' harrumph as I open the curtains .

With 'The Font' Sophie has visited the cheese shop, the interior designers, the dry cleaners and the pharmacy. There have also been walks on the beach and drinks from the puddles on the golf course. 'The Font' is not impressed when the family diva attempts to bring a large clump of kelp into the car from the beach. Sophie howls as she is driven by the Jaffa Cake cafe without stopping. It seems Angus may have his uses.

It is the annual bird count. For three days 'The Font' will spend a couple of hours recording visitors to the bird feeder. Yesterday was a big day for greenfinches but this morning only one of them has shown up. Chaffinches seem to be in the ascendant today.


Friday, January 27, 2023


Angus intends to spend much of Thursday in the garage. It's time to go through the last of those plastic packaging crates marked ' Family papers/Miscellaneous  - Do Not Discard '  that we brought from France. Family papers/Miscellaneous is a catch all for table cloths, old hard drives, vases, single gloves  and all sorts of odds and ends that were packed with increasing desperation as the removal day got closer. Good progress is made until he bends down to pick up the last of the crates from the floor. It's full of papers ... and is heavy. In fact it's heavy enough to waken that forty five year old trapped nerve which decides now is the time to 'pop out' and get reacquainted. This was an old rugby injury that I hoped had gone for good.

From making the call to getting in to see the ' minor injuries unit ' at the hospital takes all of twenty minutes. It would have been quicker but the hospital car park is full and 'The Font' has to find a space by the  dustbins. 'A trapped nerve. That'll be sore' says the young lady on duty. Angus agrees. The young doctor's not entirely sure that lifting a packing case counts as an accident but as the waiting room is quiet she gives me the benefit of the doubt. Anti-inflammatories are prescribed. Angus was hoping for some pain killers - some Codeine would have been handy - but opioid addiction must be a thing that's frowned on in these deeply Presbyterian parts. He is told to buy some Nurofen and come back in a week.

For the next few days Sophie will be accompanied on all her outings by 'The Font'. Today they will driving off in search of physiotherapists. Getting an appointment as short notice is 'difficult'. Perhaps they can be persuaded in person ?

Question du jour : https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00167-1

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A surfeit of Haggis


We spend more time than you might think possible glaring at a plump pigeon sitting on a stone wall down by the shore.  My suggestion that we ' hurry along ' is ignored. When it becomes apparent that Angus is going to do nothing about the pigeon , or the wall, Sophie  resumes her tour of the village.

Yesterday we went to see the joiner . We arrived as the first graders were off for a walk through town with their teachers. Sophie and Angus quickly cross the road to avoid them. A crocodile of enthusiastic four year olds in day glo yellow jackets might make for an 'unpredictable' start to Sophie's day.

All is hunky dory at the joiners. The new patio doors are almost ready and the bookcase is starting to take shape. The 'gaffer' promises to let us know when he will start work on the kitchen. Mid-May is a possibility. ' I'll work out the costs and you can send me the deposit ' he says as I'm ushered out of the workshop.

The village Burns night is on Saturday. From the piles of Haggis left on the supermarket shelves I'm guessing that most folk in town didn't throw a party last night and are waiting until the weekend to celebrate. It goes without saying that the students partied last night and will party again at the weekend. For a while town looked like the stage set for Brigadoon -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74KLtoXy0ig

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Additional space.


The joiner has asked us to go to his workshop this morning to look at the new bookcases. He'd planned for seven shelves of 25 centimetres height and one shelf that's 31 centimetres. Seems he's ended up with some additional space at top and bottom.  I'd have thought this could have been sorted on a video call but he's insistent we be there in person. We'll also try to get him pinned down on when he's going to start making the kitchen units. So far the closest to a date we've got from him is a vague ' Aye Angus. It's all in hand '. 

Progress on 'The Fonts' garden room. The architects have come up with a new, slightly smaller, 'perfect' cube design with a flat roof. One entire wall will be glazed to take in the view down to the sea. Finding a way to have a glass wall while keeping the warmth in and the Scottish weather out is not as simple as it sounds. I'm hoping the garden room and the conservatory can both be put up by the builders at the same time. This of course is highly improbable. As it stands the conservatory goes up in June, the garden room in late August.

This morning dog and companion have a long walk on the path that runs alongside one of the golf courses. Sophie is keen to go and say hello to a group of cheerful Minnesotans. To avoid her retrieving their golf balls from the rough she is put on her lead.

Having finished the Mike Pence book Angus has now started on Jared Kushners memoirs. Neither of them is what you might call a work of great literature. The word 'I' is used with great frequency in both.  The Pence book was stylistically hard going but this one has an even more self justificatory style. Getting through it without major page skipping may prove difficult.

Highland cattle have become the must have souvenir of a visit to Scotland. I'd say a full twenty percent of the shops in St Andrews have a collection of them in their windows. Angus thinks they look rather  intimidating. Quite what a six month old would make of them is a question best left unasked. 

Burns Night poetry : https://youtu.be/xJjPeDRClkk

Tuesday, January 24, 2023



It's been cold south of the border . By contrast the weather up here has been unseasonably mild. This morning we head along the track to the salt lake. The geese look at us and honk to make it clear we're disturbing them. A couple of large naval vessels are anchored out in the estuary. The grey of their hulls  almost invisible against the cloud. Not often you see two of them together. Guess the Russians are still busy out in the North Sea. An old friend from Berlin calls on the mobile. As Sophie explores the rocks and the seaweed her companion talks about France and Germany. It's strange how Poland is fast becoming Americas most important ally in the EU.

Town is busy . Despite the early hour folk are enjoying the mild weather and taking  their dogs for a walk. Students - either early rising or, just as possibly, late to bed , are walking up and down the beach. A group of female wannabe kayakers are learning how to paddle in the inner harbour. The young male instructor does his best to maintain some form of order. The kayakers are having too much fun to pay him any attention. Ducks and herons scatter as they approach. Some American girls appear with a tray of Starbucks coffees. Three young men try to impress them by hanging over the side of the railings on the quayside. This clearly does the trick.  They are soon chatting away like old friends. When the students are around you can always catch the sound of laughter.

The wee red lobster boat has been out in the deep waters just in front of the cottage. It potters in and ties up. The fisherman sells us a dozen langoustine . The lobsters are all pre-sold to the large 5 star hotel on the hill. They're on the lunch time menu at £75 a pop. The fisherman asks if we'll be at the Burns Supper. I tell him we will. 

Never in my life have I seen a town with as many dogs as here. The canine population falls into two general categories. Those that require coats to keep out the cold and those that have thick cold repelling  coats of their own. The later group are more numerous. It goes without saying that in a crowded field Sophie wins the 'cold repelling'  category hands down.

Monday, January 23, 2023


Another glorious sunrise. Sophie heads off across the ice covered fields in pursuit of adventure. At this time of the morning the only noises are the sound of the sea on the rocks, the honking of the geese by the salt lake and the fluttering wings of the local dunnock population. The PONette finds that the ice cracks as she walks across it. This discovery, as with all things that create a noise, provides her with great satisfaction. 

Todays telco with the Manhattanites a replay of last weeks conversations. Sleaze ( Brit politicians no slouches in this regard ), Ukraine and the debt ceiling all to the fore. Monterey Park is discussed.

While 'The Font' segues into the new day Angus and Sophie head into town. Angus can be up, showered, dressed and out in eleven minutes. This is not the case with everyone in the family. We park by the cinema. The sunrise outlines the chimney stacks on the houses . How dirty the town must have been when every fire in every grate was alight.

We think of going to the trendy coffee shop . A dog owning couple walk in ahead of us.  Angus hastily adjusts our plans. A chance encounter between Sophie and two Huskies in an enclosed space might be a 'noisy' start to the day.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Pink tinge.

Sunday morning. First light. A Polish Lowland Sheepdog lady sets off down the icy track in pursuit of two plump pigeons. She wears the determined look of a family diva that knows there's a whole village to be checked and made safe before breakfast. The frozen puddles are carefully bypassed. Skating can wait. The sky has a pink tinge to it that hints at snow so dawdling is not an option.

Later, weather permitting, Sophie will head off for a shared pain au raisin at the good coffee cafe. Life for a 10 year old PONette is busy ... but good.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Hyacinths in the window.


The spell of dry , cold weather continues. There's a  thin layer of frost on the old second world war coastal defences that line the beach. To stop erosion the council have cleared access paths to the seashore through the old tank traps. 

Sophie skips as she heads off . Difficult to say whether she's skipping with joy or whether it's the 'bracing' effect of the frozen sand on her paws. The PONette and the frozen sand glow pink under the rising sun. A group of track suited youngsters are practising rugby passes down by the shore. Sophie gives them a wide berth.

Volvos are a very popular car here. This may have something to do with the key fob function that allows you to warm up the interior and defrost the windscreen while you're still 100 metres away. On a morning like this it's more than useful.  Sophie has a long, leisurely drink in the back of the car. Angus stands in the cold waiting for her to finish so he can lower the tailgate.

No queue at the good coffee cafe. It's a weekend so the students are recovering from their Friday night partying. Sophie gets a piece of shortbread from the American barista. Sophie decides she loves the American barista. 

A touch of old Scotland. Some of the houses down by the good coffee cafe have bowls of hyacinths in their drawing room windows. This is a Scots tradition that Angus remembers from both his mother and his grandmother. From the empty bowl alongside on the windowsill I'm guessing that there have been hyacinths in this window for Hogmanay. I also notice that there's a van parked outside that's unloading the parts for a stair lift. This may be a clue as to the house owners age.

So starts a Saturday morning with a Polish Poland Sheepdog who's determined to find mischief wherever she can.

These knives ( unless specially ordered ) are only sold at 1 pm on a Friday :https://blok-knives.co.uk/the-story/

Friday, January 20, 2023

A miserable companion.

Our day starts with a 'howling' . At some stage during the night Sophie has settled down in the metre deep space between the curtains and the patio doors. She wakes to find herself alone and in the dark. This is a state of affairs that needs to be remedied ... and fast. 

The family diva emerges from this trauma wearing her patented 'wind swept' look. What she looks like after an hour in the wind is not an improvement.

The black sheep seem remarkably untroubled by her appearance. Perhaps they don't recognize this shaggy bundle of fur as a sheep dog ?

In the car park a  van with a cat wearing a cape painted on the side catches my eye . Next  to the cat a sign saying 'Committed to keeping Scotland safe'. Closer inspection shows that it's a company that sells fire extinguishers. The caped cat is dutifully holding one between its paws. My initial thought is ' who dreams up these things ? Then I realize that it's attracted my attention. The psychology behind the design must work.

Yet another sunny morning. The west facing clock on the chapel tower is missing its hands. Presumably the 'public time keeping is our passion' company that was here last week has taken them away to be gilded/straightened/ restored. Who knows? 

All three of our usual watering holes busy with students. The good coffee cafe has a queue that stretches out of the door and twenty yards along the street. We stop off for a bacon roll at the cafe on the beach. Sophie gets a bowl of water. The two young ladies behind the counter wonder if she'd like a small bowl of ice cream. This would not be a good idea. I tell them she'll share my bacon roll. Sophie is once again left to ponder what life would be like without such a miserable companion. What could be better on a January morning when the temperature outside is well below freezing than a start of day tub of ice cream ? She leaves the cafe casting a longing look behind her. Maybe tomorrow ?

Thursday, January 19, 2023

A dapper ensemble


Another beautiful but cold morning. Sophie is out of the car, over the dunes and onto the beach at a break neck pace. This morning there are crows to chase. Archie the arthritic labrador is greeted like the old friend that he's become. How quickly are new routines formed and old ones forgotten.

There are 'fishy' scents to be found amid the seaweed. After forty minutes Sophie has had a full olfactory workout.  I try to discuss the surprise news that the New Zealand Prime Minister is stepping down but Sophie is entirely focused on a washed up razor clam.

We head back to the car, passing as we go a thorn tree reputed to have been planted by Mary Queen of Scots. Sophie sniffs it but after the scintillating discovery of  razor clams a thorn tree is just a thorn tree.

A detour to the Jaffa Cake cafe. The sound of 'Abide with me' echoing out of the town kirk on the other side of the street. The organist is putting his body and soul into it. As there's no hearse waiting outside I'm guessing it's the choir practising for a funeral. We leave as they get to the line 'Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies' . The ladies of the choir are attempting the 'challenging' descant. The old stone walls of the kirk filter out any imperfections and as we walk by the taxi rank they sound almost angelic.

A formal outfit in the doorway of one of the kilt makers. This dapper ensemble is presumably targeted at a a youthful wedding audience. Perhaps a different tie might be more successful ? Angus approves of the sporran.

So starts another January day with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog lady.