Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Lucky she didn't hear what he said.

Last night dinner preparations were delayed while we stood ( suitably wrapped up ) in the garden with a glass of champagne watching Jupiter and Saturn shining low in the western sky. They sparkle like diamonds.  As an encore the northern lights also make an appearance. An unusual occurrence this far south. It seems they're showing up thanks to a  particularly fierce solar storm.

This morning Sophie leads me onto the beach. She quickly turns to make sure I'm following on close behind . All PONettes know that bravery is easier when it's shared.

Down by the waters edge there's a Chow. The look of this exotic dog elicits surprise - the noise it makes even more so. The family diva is rooted to the spot in wonder. After that Sophie's attention is captured by a young man from the marine laboratory who is taking samples and measuring sand pollutants. Sophie is greatly interested in what he's doing although it must be said he is less than enthusiastic about having a shaggy canine helper. She is 'encouraged' along.

Then it's time to head off for a coffee , a bowl of water and a chocolate free Jaffa Cake. Sophie's tail does it sixty beats a minute routine. She seems to be of the opinion that life is good and that she's making new friends. It's lucky she didn't catch what the young marine biologist said about her .

Monday, February 27, 2023

Easter dinosaurs.


By six thirty the beach has perhaps a dozen people on it. A couple of arthritic labradors, a Chow and a hyper active furry mutt are all greeted by Sophie. She is slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that there's a world of dogs out there and seems to be rather enjoying this belated discovery.

Paperchase, the retailer that had 3 for 2 specials on Valentines Day cards, has now closed. It was a surprise that the company kept going for as long as it did. The market for cards of any description seems to have been in a long decline. Over the weekend the store has been stripped clean and a large 'To Let' sign fixed to the wall. What worries me is that this is the eighth store in the centre of town  to close since we arrived here six months ago. Natural retail rotation or a sign of something painful heading our way in the economy ?

No economic uncertainty at the food hall. The stock of Easter goodies that went up yesterday is flying off the shelves. In the good old days there were Easter eggs. Now there are Easter cats, Easter rockets and Easter dogs.... and on the bottom shelf , next to Easter chickens , are Easter dinosaurs. One of the Easter dogs is a dead ringer for Sophie. We meet the Principal of the University who is out doing her weekly shop. 

Lights on in one of the fancy houses overlooking the sea by the golf course. Closer inspection shows the lights to be large chandeliers. Must be owned by folks from Glasgow. A window on the ground floor is open. Considering the strength and the direction of the wind I can only assume the decorators are in and they're trying to get rid of paint fumes.

Inexplicably the workmen have chosen today to restart work on the band stand. Three of them are having their breakfast 'piece ' while sitting on the roof. Progress on the renovation of the band stand proceeds with a slowness bordering on indifference. Perhaps it will be finished in time for the summer ?

The window next to the good coffee cafe has had a flower change. The white roses that lasted for the better part of 3 weeks have been replaced by some yellow carnations. I have a feeling the temperature inside the room might be at a level that  keeps flowers fresh for longer.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

To be resolved.

Anyone planning a trip to London had better go soon.  There's the Easter rush, then Biden is planning a state visit and of course come May there's the coronation. Angus planned to go down for his annual doctors check-up in late April. He's now going in mid-March when a) he can get a room and b) the room doesn't cost an arm and a leg. 

Sophie has had a major muzzle trim. Two inches of fur off her jowls. An inch off her beard. The hair on the tip of  her ears cut back so that she is less prone to picking up detritus on our walk along the foreshore. Now she appears merely shaggy rather than unkempt. The look she gives me as she's loaded into the back of the car tells you what she thinks about being trimmed.

She does her best to ignore me as we head off across the beach. The PONette really knows how to play the ' How could you treat such a poor maiden so ?' routine.

Sadly, lots of dead gulls have been washed up on the beach. At least a dozen of them.  I'd hoped that avian flu might have peaked. It looks as though it's still gaining strength. Sophie is told to stay clear of the waters edge. Surprisingly, she does.

As some compensation for the indignity of having her fur trimmed  Sophie is taken to the William and Kate cafe for a bowl of water and a shared bacon roll. There are half a dozen students hanging around outside waiting for their Americanos. They are returning home after a night of 'partying'. Sophie is hopeful that they may have Jaffa Cakes. They don't.  After some slivers of bacon roll Sophie and Angus are once again reconciled.

The  new bookcases in the snug  at the wee cottage are completely filled. This is a bit of a disappointment. We still have enough books to fill them over not once but twice . Angus is loathe to get rid of books. He remembers where he was and what he was doing when he read each of them. A rote of travels, births, marriages and deaths. Quite how we will deal with this dilemma has yet to be resolved. This is one of the problems with downsizing. 'The Font' tries a website that promises to buy old books. Angus's tomes on foreign policy have a bid of exactly £0.00.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Perfect ?


The first glimmer of peace talks in Ukraine and the quiet wooing of delegates by Trumps re-election team are the topics of conversation this morning. One of the Manhattanites comes out with the interesting fact that in 2021 road fatalities were the second leading cause of death among Americans under 45 - ahead of Covid or gun violence. 

Can a day be perfect ? Yesterday was certainly way up there. The sun bright, the wind fresh, the air clear. If you closed your eyes and concentrated there was the first hint of warmth on your cheeks. For Sophie this is how every day should be.  We go out for half an hours walk on the beach but find that we're out for more than an hour . There must be the better part of a hundred wet suited youngsters riding the waves. They are a cheerful - but sadly - biscuit free crowd. Sophie is unimpressed.  A group of students go hurtling into the sea. It's colder than they imagined and the frigid  North Sea soon has them laughing and shouting. Sophie finds this behaviour incredible. She stops, rooted to the spot, and has to be 'encouraged' along. She keeps on turning back to see what is causing all the hollering. Sophie cannot comprehend that people might be having fun without her.

To celebrate the installation of the bookcases we go out for an early dinner. Sophie, after her long walk, stays at home. She's exhausted. The restaurant is empty. Eerily so. Seems the hotel has been booked solid by a golfing party who are dining in the private function room. We have the run of the bar and the restaurant . The restaurant ceiling is covered by a large fresco of famous golfers. A St Andrews version of the Sistine Chapel with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer standing in for the prophets. We position ourselves at a table by the window where we can admire both the view and the golfing notables above us.

You can tell it's a golfing hotel. They have Sirloin steaks ( to be shared ) for £157. Fresh Lemon Sole - which we have -  is a much more reasonable £30.  Seems that 90% + of golfers are steak and fries eaters. If they don't have steak they have lobster.... also with fries. We are both surprised at just how expensive steak has become. Mark you that's an observation that can just about be applied to anything these days.

A walk back to the car through the town. We don't pass a soul unless you count the Catholic priest locking up the church for the night.

So passes another day with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog intent on enjoying life and generating as much mischief as she can.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Scents linger.

The sheep have been moved from their pen down by the estuary. The sheep may have gone but their 'scents' linger. Our morning walk is interrupted as my shaggy companion rolls on her back in grass infused with 'parfum de mouton '.

This takes quite some time. Some joys cannot be hurried. When finished she walks with an evident 'life is good' spring in her step.

It's now light by six thirty. At this time of the day the beach is largely given over to family dogs of a certain age. This morning we pass a golden, a Sheltie and a labrador. The golden and the labrador have balls in their mouths and walk with their heads held high. The Sheltie has an overly large stick of which he is very proud. All are of an age where they have inelastic hips. All are quite clearly loved. The PONette greets each of them. 

This mornings topic of conversation between dog owners is yesterdays accident on the road into town. At the busy 'Y' junction a van driver failed to notice a cyclist coming down the hill towards him. They collided head on. It must have been serious because the air ambulance was called on to ferry the injured cyclist to hospital ten miles away. Within three minutes the police had the road sealed off and the traffic diverted. We all agree the emergency services were highly efficient.

The high tide in the afternoon was quite the thing. The water came right up to the edge of the dunes that form the seaward side of the golf courses.  We were on the beach for a pre-dinner walk and Sophie only had a small ribbon of sand to walk on.

The fun of twitter is often in the replies ( although these days the replies seem to be interspersed with ads and blue ticks you didn't ask to see )  :https://twitter.com/AgathaChocolats/status/1628220574198599688

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Lots of activity out at sea this morning. The local news says that some Russian naval vessels have been seen 'snooping' around the wind farms off the Dutch and Scottish coasts. Sophie is up and in a talkative mood as she hears some jet fighters heading off over the coast with their afterburners on.

Yesterday was busy. The bookcases are put  in. Then, the one on the left is taken out. There is 'snagging ' to be done. The joiners fear they will be with us for a third day but somehow they manage to get all their work done by the time they leave. The electricians who had been asked to come and take down the old wall mounted picture lights don't show up. The joiners decide to do the electrical work themselves. Sophie is unhappy with the more senior of the two joiners. He has once again appeared without biscuits. She makes her disappointment clear by ignoring him and looking imploringly at the other.

Down on the beach a steady stream of fork lift trucks are trundling back and forth. They're digging up sand on the foreshore and dumping it on the dunes at the other end of the beach. There's an exceptionally high tide expected this afternoon. This is expected to coincide with strong gale force winds blowing onshore.

Sophie finds this activity to be tantalizing. We stand and watch . She is oblivious to the  wind whipping  around us. 

We head back into town via the eighteenth tee on the Old Course. For golfers this is the Holy of Holies.

A group from Milwaukee ask if I can take their photo with the R&A as a backdrop. It's a shame it's covered in scaffolding but they don't seem to care.

The Milwaukee golfers are staying in a friends apartment in the block that's been redeveloped by the Kohler family. With that pedigree I'm betting the bathrooms are good. Some of the apartments have mirrored, toughened, glass windows. This is perhaps a little over the top for a small  sleepy Scottish coastal town. One of the golfers calls Sophie 'pumpkin'. 

Overkill or exclusivity? There are now 24 Michelin starred restaurants around DC . https://washington.org/dc-guide-to/michelin-guide-dining-washington-dc

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ignored or adored.

The joiners arrived at seven thirty and finished at four. They will be back this morning to finish off the installation of the book cases. The younger joiner brought biscuits. Sophie adores him. The elder didn't. He is ignored.

The gardeners were an hour late. The two gentlemen who finally show up are exceedingly cheerful retirees in matching lime green weather wear. They set up their company four years ago and now have fourteen employees. Demand for their services is robust. We use them at the house we let out in town. If it wasn't for the fact that we were one of their first customers we would have to wait three months for an appointment. It seems that people want a garden but they don't want to maintain it themselves. They describe this as the 'look don't touch' approach to yard work.

It's been an exceptionally mild start to the year but it's still too cold and windy for Sophie to safely have a full on trim. I'm guessing things will have warmed up enough for three inches of fur to come off by mid-April.

Some things cannot wait. After a good ferret around the shoreline the fur on the family divas muzzle is crying out for some 'tidying up '. It goes without saying that Sophie will not be a willing participant in this process. She is of the view that sand, seaweed and accreted flotsam and jetsam add to her allure.

Snowdrops coming out in swathes on the golf courses.

A remarkably fine Raven - feathers glossy, beak black -  is holding court by the storm shelter in the car park. He is huge and seems completely untroubled by the presence of golfers. Sophie gives him a wide berth. She seems to know that some creatures will give as good as they get.

Last night we dined, virtually, in Clayton GA . 'The Font' cooks while Angus opens and pours the wine and reads out what's on offer. Imagined choices are made. We started doing this during the pandemic and have carried on as it's an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend that pre-dinner hour between seven and eight.  Menus have certainly moved on from the days when Angus was a student. It's also a surprise to discover that Georgia now produces wine :https://www.fortifyclayton.com/fortifymain/dinner-menu/

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Open or closed ?

Progress at last ! The joiners should soon be here to install the bookcases. Six months to the day since we left the house in France. The garden designers are also expected to show up to advise on what can be planted out here. As you'll see from the photo below trees are a relative rarity on this windy stretch of coast.

It rains overnight. This morning the puddles along the farm track once again full of fresh, clear water. Sophie is delighted. There's no need to drink from one of the bowls laid out for her in the house. She does a full pre-breakfast tour of the village. The orange mountain bike that was chained to the bus stop has gone. The little red metallic Vauxhall is still blocking access to the turnip field but now has a sign on it saying 'Police aware'. 

After a walk on the beach we head off to the good coffee cafe. A long queue today. Sophie is looked after by a young lady biochemist from Nuneaton while I go in and order. The baristas provide my companion with a piece of shortbread. This is gratefully received. 

The flower display in the window of the house facing the cinema has changed from a glass jug to a yellow ceramic one. Inside a large table covered in term papers being marked and graded. I'd have thought everything was done online these days but maybe not in St Andrews. There is a candle in the window. Is this lit at night ? Wouldn't you be worried about people peering in ? Maybe people are divided into two categories -  those that draw their curtains and those that leave them resolutely open ?


Monday, February 20, 2023


How remarkable to see the American President walking through Kyiv while air raid sirens sound. I'm not sure what that signals but it's a brave thing for anyone to do https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa/status/1627631915263004672

On our morning walk we meet the secretary of the local council. She is out walking her two Jack Russells. They have been joined on their walk by a third Jack Russell which belongs to the couple in the cottage facing the village hall. I've never seen or met these people as they have old newspapers piled up in their windows. The three Jack Russells greet Sophie then rush off in pursuit of some crows. Someone has chained a bike to the bus stop. It's been there since Friday night. The secretary of the local council says the police aren't interested. This, Angus thinks to himself, is not really surprising. 'It's an orange mountain bike' she adds. A red metallic Vauxhall Corsa has been parked blocking the track that leads to the turnip field. It has also been there since Friday. 'Joy riders' says the secretary of the local council with a vehemence that implies blocking the track to the turnip field is a miscreants dream.

After that our Monday morning is quiet ...

but soon there are dogs to the right ....

and dogs to the left .

We encounter a rather standoffish 14 year old beagle  who seems to think the beach is her domain and hers alone. The sheep in the field by the river  ignore Sophie. Despite being penned up Sophie prudently positions herself so that I'm between her and these ferocious beasts. This is perhaps not an ideal  trait for a sheepdog. 

I post a letter. Then it's off to the trendy student cafe for an Americano, a bowl of water and a shared croissant. Angus ranks the croissant as a 2/10. Sophie gives it eleven. The young baristas now know Sophie's name and greet her enthusiastically. Angus remains a mere accompanying presence.

With technology dogs will need to find new excuses :https://video.nest.com/clip/3db4b191f107447b8625e2587f973456.mp4

This is a great idea for the Scottish winter :https://careomax.com/en/landing/discover-careomax-heathero-heating-jacket/

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Taken seriously.


Sophie heads off to the waters edge at something approaching a sprint. The PONette has a philosophy that says enjoying life is something that must be taken seriously.

We have the beach to ourselves. The weather is keeping other dog owners and start of day runners indoors. Further down the beach half a dozen surfers show up. The tide is out so they have to wade out to where the sand falls away and the deep, wave rich, water begins. Sophie looks at them as if they're mad. Angus has to agree with her. Somethings are just plain unnatural in a Scottish February.

The year is picking up pace and moving along. Our local farm shop is taking orders for Easter lamb. It only seems like  a few days ago that we were getting ready for Hogmanay. Time to order the Simnel Cake -  https://www.bettys.co.uk/apostle-simnel-fruit-cake  I see that courier shipments in the week before Easter have been cancelled so it's best to order early.

This being Scotland the farm shop has an unusually wide range of oatcakes for sale. Sophie has discovered a liking for oatcakes. 

We briefly consider some Haggis bon bons.

There was a time when we had half a dozen grooming combs like these. They are ideal for dealing with long PON fur.  The last of them is showing signs of old age. They were bought, we think, in a pet shop in Montecino. There is no makers name on them but a large sign running along the top saying ' Made in USA '. Nothing similar can be found on Amazon in the UK or Germany. Are they still sold ? Anyone know of the makers name ?

Saturday, February 18, 2023

What a wind.

There's a strong wind this morning - a constant 50 mph pounding with gusts of up to 70. The window frames shudder under the onslaught. When I come downstairs and open the curtains Sophie can be found sprawled out on the floor. I know she's awake because her tail is gently swishing from side to side. The family diva takes the executive decision to sleep on for another ten minutes. The rug is soft, the room is warm and  important decisions can wait until such time as breakfast is ready. Even the worlds greatest guard dog is allowed to cut herself a little slack.

I open a yogurt pot. This has the family diva awake, or in a state that approximates to being awake,  within seconds. 

Cormorants, curlews and oystercatchers are all sensibly rooted to the ground. This is not flying weather. Even the gulls, who are normally aloft in any conditions, remain securely perched on the rocks. The village dog owners walk inland where there's some shelter. We battle down the track to the shore. A great gust of wind tears off my bobble hat. It blows away. I follow it .  Just when I think it's in reach it blows away again - this is not unlike a Laurel and Hardy  comedy routine. Sophie thinks this is great fun and is full on to participate. She adds a little chaos to the mix. By the time we turn and head home both dog and companion look more sand blasted than wind blown. 

So starts a Saturday morning with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog lady who is determined to enjoy every moment of her day. A trip into town for a coffee and a bacon roll now awaits. Angus has an eight am rendezvous with the barbers. 

Every evening, over a glass of wine, we print out a menu and dine virtually. This is a habit we got into during the pandemic and still maintain. This menu has something called Pigeons in Pimlico. It's apparently an 18th century dish. https://mountstrestaurant.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/DINNER-MOUNT-ST-MAIN-MENU-3-FEB.pdf  How many diners would know what it is ?