Sunday, April 30, 2023

No training for this.

Waves and high tides combine to create problems for the PONette. She glares at one wave and then another comes along behind. What will it take to train them ?

Surging water was not an issue  Sophie had to face in her first decade of life in a landlocked French village.

The abnormally high North Sea tides mean that this has not been a good week for keeping paws dry. Sophie's learning that even a moments distraction and the water creeps up on you. Chasing gulls along the shoreline, ineptly, doesn't help matters. Standing with your back to the sea while greeting Charlie the spaniel is just asking for trouble.

We head off for a bacon roll. A chance for the family diva to recompose herself after the traumas of the beach. The charity shop by the church has given a collection of dancing porcelain figurines prime position in its window. They were probably a grandmothers pride and joy. Changing fashions and the 'clearing out' of the house may bring them new owners. Will they be sold off piecemeal or as a lot ?

Two Australian golfing gentlemen arrive at the Good Coffee Cafe. 'Strewth ! I need some caffeine ' says the more brightly dressed of the two. 'Strewth' is not a word you hear very often. Sophie eyes them up warily.

The cinema has a playlist that seems to indicate that under twelves ( and their parents )  have become the target audience.

So starts a quiet Sunday in a small out of the way Scottish town where peace and calm are the order of the day.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Fit in a suitcase

An interesting chat with the super smart Los Angeles folk. They are already weighing up the coming battle between Bidens age and Trumps character. As we talk Sophie dozes with her chin on my left foot but as soon as the Zoom call is over she's off  across the courtyard and into the middle of the field that leads down to the shore. She skips.  Another wonderful day is starting.

Down on the sand Sophie chases a gull. The gull flies off. Sophie, ineptly, gives chase. Her hunting skills might improve if she went in the same direction as her prey. Her howls of delight are also sub-optimal for a predator. She's lost in the moment. The problem about being lost in the moment is that the family diva finds herself further out in the water than is perhaps wise. She plods slowly and a little unsurely back to dry land. Words of encouragement are shouted out. The word 'treats' gets her moving more quickly.

Safely ashore Angus is given a ' I'm safe - No thanks to you' look that makes it  plain what she thinks of his mentoring skills.

This morning we head off to the little cafe by the church. We rarely go here as it's busy in all weathers with students. Today we have the place to ourselves. It is peak exam time.

In the window of the hardware store an underwhelming display of coronation merchandise. A metal tray, a tea caddy , a 'God Save the King' tea towel and a variety of etched glasses fail to tickle this shoppers fancy.

At the garden centre three rocks for £15. I am left speechless.  Perhaps I should go down to the beach with a wheelbarrow. I could sell 3 bigger rocks for £10 and corner the market. 

The fancy art gallery setting up their new summer exhibition. The summer exhibition is always a great hit with golfers wanting to take something home to remind them of their trip. The gallery is big on canvases that will fit inside a suitcase or the overhead luggage bin.

Friday, April 28, 2023

These are the lively oracles of God.

The evening talk on coronation rituals is given by the Emeritus Professor of  Cultural and Spiritual History. Whoever knew there was such a thing ? The talk is as eight. We arrive five minutes early. Most of the seats are taken but  the last two at the back are free. For plastic chairs they are remarkably comfortable. They have slightly padded seats.  A man offers us a glass of wine. We politely decline. The label says it's a Pinot Grigio but there's something about the exotic colour that says it's usurped the name. The crowd is jolly and local and in some cases well fortified by a glass or two ... or three of the exotic tincture. The talk starts , on the dot, of eight.

I'd been unsure whether we'd enjoy an hour spent exploring coronations symbolism but it's intriguing. We learn that since the 8th century the coronation service has started with the same hymn that is used in Papal investitures. The language used in the service has a quiet magnificence. The words woven together in a way that's alien to the modern ear.  I shall listen out for the line ' These are the lively oracles of God '. For Scots the Stone of Scone is the big attraction. It is said to be the rock which Jacob and later St Columba used as a pillow. In reality it's just a slab of sandstone with a great back story and would have been forgotten had Edward 1st not stolen it and had it taken to London. It's had a starring role in the proceedings ever since.  The professor sums it all up with the view that the coronation is the last ceremony that invokes the magic of previous millennia . Many will think of it as mumbo jumbo but he thinks a generation brought up on Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons will find it all strangely compelling. The professor has published a little book as a guide to the ceremony which is great fun  -

This morning the family diva is out of the car along the road and onto the sand in record breaking time. 

The beach is deserted except for Archie the arthritic labrador who is plodding slowly through the dunes. We go to the cafe in the student union. It's usually full of 'young people' but with all the students focused on exams we're able to get a table outside and watch the world go by. Angus has a bacon roll. Instead of being served in a bap it comes in some fancy form of cheese and tomato bread. Angus is a purist about these things and is unimpressed. Sophie by contrast is a full on convert to bacon in cheese and tomato bread. She believes that the sharing of the bacon roll has been less than equitable. She quietly biffs my hand with her nose to remind me she's still there.  We meet the development officer wearing a green tweed suit. He gives me two tickets to next weeks opera. ' Don't wear black tie. A lounge suit will do ' he says as if black tie is something people wear every day in a small Scottish fishing town. He's on his way to the Hebdomadars office - whatever that is.

We wander back through the exam buildings and down to the harbour where we've parked the car. Now the seas are calmer the dressed crab shop has started operation again which will please 'The Font' no end.

On the radio breakfast programme :

We shall be going here for some new curtain material . Amazing what is made in small neighbouring villages :

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Incoming tides.


Sophie is still coming to terms with the concept of incoming tides.

This morning a particularly powerful  wave surges across the sand. It gets the full on 'glare ' treatment. I tell Sophie King Canute had the same problem. She is unimpressed. 

Nothing like a custom paint job to wake you  up in the morning. From the number of empty parking spaces I'd reckon that those students lucky enough to have online tests are gradually heading home.

Those students unlucky enough to have written papers can be found across town sharing their thoughts on what to expect. They tend to  congregate where pavements are narrowest. Sophie has long ago found that students , although jovial, are best ignored. They never have Jaffa Cakes. The town has a year round population of 17,000 so the sudden departure of 10,000 students is a bit of a shock. .

On the golf course the daffodils are past their best but in the thorn thickets the late spring flowers are coming to the fore. The golf courses are gearing up. By six thirty there's a small crowd - maybe thirty or so -  waiting by the first tee on the Old Course. I'd reckon todays crew are 40% American but mostly Spanish. A large motor home with the words ' Spanish Golf Tours - Mobile Office ' is parked on the seafront esplanade. An indication that this is some sort of corporate freebie.  Local caddies are advising the golfers which iron to use on which hole. 

Just over a week before the coronation. Hand cooked chicken crisps make an appearance in the supermarket. Apart from that you wouldn't know constitutional change was in the air. This evening we shall be going to a talk given by a man who is an expert on the sacred oil that will anoint the new king. For the first time in a thousand years the monks in Jerusalem will make it without using civet cat glands.  This is good news for civet cats. Small towns like this are the repository of esoteric knowledge. We try to go to public lectures once or twice a week. The attendees are often more interesting than the speakers. Fueled by free wine the Q and A sessions often become 'lushly' intense. Sylvia Plaths daughter will be here soon to talk about her new book - . We shall go to that.

So starts a quiet Thursday morning in East coast Scotland with a shaggy sheepdog.

American Pie :

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

NOW !!!!

4:44 am. The unmistakable ' I've eaten something that disagrees with me and I need out NOW !!!!' noise drifts up the stairs from Sophie's bed. 'That'  sound all dog owners fear. By 4:46 am Sophie is out of the front door. She heads off like a rocket followed by Angus who has woken and 'put on whatever's at hand' . 

By six am Sophie has had breakfast, her trauma has long passed and she is  raring to face a new day, Bright sunshine greets her as she strides purposefully onto the beach. Ten minutes later a brief squall sweeps in. You can get all four seasons in an hour here. Sophie is distracted by the arrival of a spaniel friend and is caught off guard by a wave that  creeps up on her. Even the most cosmopolitan of PONettes finds that the unexpected happens.

In town the Turkish barber is sitting on a bench outside his shop enjoying the sun and talking - in Turkish - to his dog. It is a small wee thing dressed up in what appear to be green dogjamas with a row of pompoms along the back. Sophie is amazed as is Angus. The barber is completely immersed in his conversation and oblivious to the laughter of passers by.

Town is quickly emptying of students and filling up with all sorts of golfing visitors coping ( or suffering ) with various degrees of jet lag. The coffee shops are now open and catering to Americans and Scandinavians up and about at six in the morning. Italian, Spanish and French golfers start their days a little later. 

A second hand copy of an old Scottish book in the window of a charity shop catches my eye. This is a variety of Scottish humour that makes gentle fun of the English. 

We stop off at the dry cleaners to pick up the sheets and pillow cases. Thankfully, Sophie is too busy to notice two dogs who are waiting by the Belisha beacons. Our chores are completed without incident.

Difficult to say who has settled into these fixed morning routines more thoroughly - Sophie or Angus.

Pate en croute . A bit different to the Scottish butchers pork pies :

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Monday night sees us at the bookstore for one of those 'Meet the author' evenings. The speaker is a 30 something political scientist. He starts his remarks by observing that at lunchtime he ordered a Mac and Cheese from room service . It came with fries rather than salad. 'It was at this point I knew Scotland was my real home and these were my people'. 

The forecast threatened snow but it didn't arrive. However, the temperature has fallen to  freezing and the eviscerating wind that's been blowing in from Norway has now upped its tempo into a full on gale. Sophie's gradualist fur trimming stopped three weeks ago. It may well be suspended for another month. 

This morning a frisky golden arrives , says hello and departs before Sophie has a chance to decide whether she wants to play ... or not. 

In the car park by the sand dunes the family diva is harnessed up. Visitors drive along the access road at speeds that defy common sense. Speed bumps every couple of hundred yards don't seem to deter them. This morning the family diva ignores a runner but is alarmed by a gentleman standing by a small red car doing  calisthenics. She has never seen this form of human gyration before and goes into 'alert' mode. 'Alert' mode for Sophie is stopping and screaming.

At the good coffee cafe a black dog sits and cries loudly. The owners seem unperturbed by this. We've always had vocal dogs ( it's a breed thing ) but never ones that cried. The black dog is spoken to by students but nothing seems to distract it from whimpering . 

The 'intriguing. window in the house opposite the cinema has a new display.

The family diva returns home to the warmth for a restorative nap. Constant adventure takes it out of a girl. The house has been busy. The kitchen fitters came yesterday and promise to start on May 22nd. They say it will take a week. That seems optimistic by why knock it ? The bathroom people also show up. They have us in the diary for a June 6th start date. This morning the garden room people are expected at nine for a final sign off. 

A newspaper has a story that these musicians will not have their songs played at Coronation parties due to their anti-monarchist views. The musicians in question are now over 60 and haven't had a hit in some time so there may be less to this story than meets the eye. It might just be a slow coronation news day  :

Monday, April 24, 2023

Out of sight.

It's light at five, bright by six. This suits both Angus and Sophie who are early risers. The strong northerly wind continues to blow. It's brought a band of spume and kelp onto the beach. It's also brought out twenty or so hardy student para-surfers.  Sophie is not sure about spume. She's certainly not sure about the para-surfers . The kelp she can live with.

The family diva makes an executive decision. She turns in the opposite direction  from the para-surfers, positions herself on the hard sand between the water and the spume and heads off down the beach at a breakneck pace.  When it comes to spume and  para-surfers this girl stands by the truism 'out of sight , out of mind'. Now the only thing she has to contend with are those pesky waves.

The forecast says the blue skies will soon give way to cloud and drizzle. 

This mornings conversation with the Manhattanites gets onto the subject of the civil war in Sudan and the movement of refugees. Water shortages around Lake Chad are discussed. Angus has got to an advanced stage in life without knowing anything about Lake Chad. Only goes to show you're never too old to learn something new :

Yesterday afternoon the UK's new national emergency system was tested. A message was sent to every mobile in the country. Who knew your phone could emit such a screeching noise ? Ahead of the alert the usual grouches were complaining on the radio about government intrusion in their lives. Now the grouches are complaining that not everyone got the message and that some are being prioritized over others. ' Does the government want me dead ?' asks a particularly incensed lady who didn't get a message . A few days ago breakfast radio had a man on saying the test would activate a secret component in the Covid vaccine and we'd all become Zombies.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Spit it out.

Yesterday dry and bright. The evening grey and cold. This morning dry and bright again. Through it all that eviscerating Norwegian wind keeps on blowing.

On the beach there is a joyful reunion between the yappy Pomeranian and Sophie. To be entirely truthful Sophie isn't so keen on the Pomeranian but she is keen on the Pomeranians owner who dispenses treats liberally.

Treats dispensed - and happily devoured - the family diva heads off onto the vastness of the shore in search of adventure. There are always gulls to chase - or even better oystercatchers. For the PONette life is never dull.

We walk back through town . 'Silence exams' signs sellotaped to doors. I'm guessing that the exam schedule is being reworked so that foreign post-grads can get home before the Coronation brings Britain to a halt. The good thing about small universities in difficult to reach places is that the personal 'touch' still exists and schedules can always be 'readjusted'. Term is supposed to finish on May 11th but it seems everyone will be gone before then. Then there will be a period of calm before the influx of brightly attired golfers. Hotels and restaurants like golfers. They are much bigger spenders than the students.

Two ducks seem completely unbothered by the fact that a Polish Lowland Sheepdog is trotting towards them down the street. After walking from one end of the beach to the other Sophie is too tired to do anything other than emit a half hearted yap of disapproval. The ducks don't even glance up.

Signs outside the town kirk tell us that the City carillonneur is having a recital. Whoever knew there was such a thing as a carillonneur ? You can't get a name that's much more Scots than Callum MacLeod. The recital is ostensibly for St.George's Day but  I'm guessing this is his excuse to let the town folk hear the  tunes that will be rung out on May 6th. God save the King is a cert. I'll put money on Land of hope and glory. What else will he be ringing out. ? Rule Britannia ?  If I could learn how to post videos on the blog I'd record some of it. We shall drive into own for a glass of wine and sit ( weather willing ) at a pavement cafe and listen . We have become adherents of the view that you take your excitement where you can find it .

Angus and Sophie stop off at the bakers for a whole meal loaf. The cakes on offer are certainly not  of a type you would find at a bakers in France. Sophie is given a piece of broken ginger bread man by the woman behind the counter. She is unsure about this. It's perhaps just a tad too exotic for this hour on a Sunday morning ? Sophie rarely spits anything out. Today she does.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

A red letter day.

Watched episode two of The Diplomat on Netflix last night. In her role as ambassador Kerri Rusell is  brilliant . In fact that's not true. She's taken a so so script and made it more than brilliant.  Staging is magnificent in a  'no expense spared'  sort of way. Maybe the plot line is a bit thin but now we're this far into it we'll carry on watching. 'The Font' enthusiastically likes it. Angus thinks it's interesting.

Saturday 22nd April a red letter day. At dawn the first , solitary, swallow of the year flies overhead.  Summer is on its way although someone has forgetten to tell the wind which is blowing from the north with arctic ferocity.

The farmer and his team are also up early. Six am and three tractors  busy deep ploughing the large field between the wee cottage and the sea. They packed up at nine last night. This will be the fourth day they've been at work in the field. The farmer is forever heading back to the tatty barns for more seed potatoes. The gulls are loving it. After sunset the nomadic crows and the herring gulls had a real ding dong of a fight for control of the skies above the furrows. The noise they made was impressive. This morning the nomadic crows have gone and the herring gulls have the juicy grubs to themselves. Herring gulls: 1 - Nomadic crows :0

After breakfast dog and master head out of the house, down the track and then onto the hawthorn lined path that leads over the raised beach and down to the sea. 

For much of the year the hawthorn is the most mundane of Scottish trees but for three brief weeks it bursts into spectacular bloom. Its flowers not unlike fresh snow. As we head through the white branches of the hawthorn thicket I tell Sophie this is what heaven must look like . My words are wasted. She's spotted a seal on the rocks and is too busy  heading along the path in pursuit to pay attention. It takes her a few moments to understand the seal is in the water. Her enthusiasm for the chase quickly evaporates.

Town busier this morning. We watch the world go by from the street side window in the student cafe. The espresso is truly dire.  It's worse - it's undrinkable .

We take one sip , grimace and head  off to the new Italian coffee shop next door to the kilt makers. Sophie doesn't object. She is now recognized as a local in almost all the coffee establishments and gets not one , but two, slivers of shortbread. For the family diva life just keeps on getting better.

Down on the big beach we've missed the usual crowd of early morning walkers. Sophie has the sand to herself. So starts a Saturday with a happy Polish Lowland Sheepdog on the windy North Sea coast.

Friday, April 21, 2023


Sunny, bright and windy. On our sunrise tour of the village we find forty plump eider ducks looking for crabs in the rock pool. There are always half a dozen eiders that call the shore home but overnight their numbers have mushroomed. After a day or twos rest the rejuvenated visitors will head off to richer feeding grounds in the north. The big news is that the herring gulls are here - in force. Hundreds of them noisily hunting for grubs in the freshly sown potato field. There is a careful choreography to the seasons here that we're only now discovering. Each day brings new visitors. I'm guessing that the two swans who have set up a nest in the middle of the wheat field by the three metal barns  might be about to present us with some cygnets. Father swan watches us walk along the field boundary with a 'particular' intensity.

On the beach Sophie greets the usual cast of characters. Arthritic Archie is getting more arthritic by the day but bravely ( and happily )  plods his way over the sand. The Pomeranians owner gives Sophie a treat. This is cautiously accepted.

Town eerily quiet. The streets empty bar a few early rising Swedish golfers wanting to get to the Old Course for ballot time. The students have disappeared. Exam time starts soon and diligent revision is the order of the day after three months of living life to the full. Four junior lecturers can be found standing outside the Good Coffee Cafe. From what I can hear they're invigilators and the first of the written exams starts on Saturday. The Coronation and the attendant bank holidays have brought the exam schedule forward. The junior lecturers don't seem overjoyed about having to work on weekends.

Back at  the wee cottage the daffodils are well and truly out in force.

At the garden centre the owners placid German Shepherd studiously ignores Sophie. This is her territory.  We're the only customers. The owner sells me some tree peonies and says that in a months time all the stock will be gone. The Scottish gardeners window of opportunity is brief. Angus wonders when plants suddenly became so expensive. The German Shepherd has a ball that she tauntingly shows the family diva. Sophie makes her frustration audible. We leave.

Later today the Volvo gets its first service. The garage calls to ask if I really need a courtesy car. 'The service will only take a couple of hours'. I ask if they'll guarantee that it won't take any longer. Voila ! The booking for the courtesy car is magically reinstated.