Wednesday, May 31, 2023

She'll dictate the pace.

Thank you for all your comments yesterday. What a kind place the dog blogging  world is. We're surprised at the speed with which the cancer is metastasizing and Sophie is shrinking. She's now all flesh and bones. Her fur hanging off her like a sweater two sizes too big. Last night there was a special dinner of warm roast salmon and pasta followed by trifle. This was wolfed down with the gusto of a puppy and the lick smacking delight of a gourmand. Nothing like cold trifle to boost a girls zest for life. 

The night largely peaceful. Under the moonlight Sophie and Angus were out walking along the cliff tops at one thirty in the morning. Sophie seemed to think this was the time she always goes out for a comfort break. She was equally sure that the cliff top route was the one she wanted to take. She leads me straight there. Angus follows on behind wearing hastily thrown on clothes and slippers. This is the dog and tramp look.

This morning at six she's ready for the off again. It seems the family diva is determined to ignore her prognosis and revisit old haunts. She is proving to be one feisty lady.

The chapel cloister is our first port of call. This is purposefully examined  from one end to the other. Seagulls and pigeons are glared at. She then heads through the old iron gate to look at the sun rising behind the cathedral. This familiar sight meets with her unconditional approval. She stops here for a full five minutes.

In the walled garden she considers chasing a crow but thinks better of it. Then the confusion and tiredness return. The rest of the journey completed in her companions arms. After the shock of yesterday we've decided that while she can relish her meals we will delay the trip to the vets.  When she loses the passion for roast salmon or trifle we'll know the time has come. This is a test that's worked well for our previous generations of PONs. We'll let her dictate the pace and set the menu. It won't be long now but some journeys simply don't need to be rushed. We'll drift rather than paddle down this next stretch of the river.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen.

A quick trip to the vets for blood tests. We've inwardly known for a day or two but didn't want to acknowledge the severity of the change. The results, when they are phoned through, show liver and kidney readings off the scale. Urea levels through the roof. How many times have we heard similar words ? " Weeks ?" asks 'The Font' . ' Days if she's lucky ' comes the vets reply. No pain but constant and growing discomfort and confusion. A large tumour on the liver. Inoperable and rampant. 

Our decision is whether her journey starts today or tomorrow. We'll aim for tomorrow so that there's a dinner of roast salmon ahead. From somewhere she summons up the energy for a walk on the beach. The waves catch her by surprise. She makes it to the safety of the dry sand and is then carried to the back of the car and home. We wonder if the coast has ever looked so beautiful.

Down by the library they're getting ready for next weeks graduation ceremonies. There's a poem written on the window by the entrance porch which is just right for a morning like this .

Sunshine .

The electricians are brilliant ( the best we've ever had ) and the plumbers are also very good. The issue remains the kitchen fitters who seem incapable of coordinating their schedule with any of the other tradesmen. The fitters also demonstrate an unwanted 'creativity' when it comes to interpreting the architects plans. This morning there will be a meeting on site to get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet. 

For the time being those concerns can wait. Angus and Sophie turn right out of the front door and head off to the castle. In the gardens  behind these old house facades  you'll still find cannon balls from the religious wars. A relic of a time when these were open fields. The French and Spanish armies  positioned their artillery here to bombard the Protestant rebels that had seized the castle down by the sea. 

Masses of eider ducks down on the rocks at the foot of the cliff. There must be a hundred or so little eider Chicks bobbing around under the watchful eyes of their parents. This part of the coast is barnacle heaven and eiders love barnacles. Sophie grazes, contentedly, on the long grass that is growing on the far side of the railings beyond the reach of the municipal workers strimmers.

A post graduate student wanders past us and into the study centre. Sophie decides that she wants to go there too. Thankfully, by the time she's clambered slowly up the stairs the front door has closed. Sophie has endless inquisitiveness when it comes to open doors. Out on the street people are beginning to appear. It's 'summer programme' time. Teenagers are shipped here to acquire knowledge in carefully structured educational modules. The reality is rather more pedestrian. Morose teenage boys congregate in groups hoping that a group of equally morose teenage girls will talk to them. Good luck with that ! The teenage girls ignore the boys with Olympian hauteur. 

We detour back past the cathedral. Our morning walks slower now.  In the last week much slower. Sometimes Sophie forgets where she is. There is much standing still. Despite advancing years she's still reveling in this this glorious high summer of swallows and sunshine and scones and shortbread and of course sausages.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Good people.


There's a group of Italian tourists standing on the other side of the road outside outside the 'wee house'. They're chatting away animatedly as their guide points out where Kate had a cup of coffee with William. 

You know when it's tourist season. The demand for al fresco dining arrives. Al fresco dining, in the Scottish climate, is not something you would wish to base a business plan on. However, the Indian restaurant on the lane seems to have had a successful night of it.

Our morning walk takes us through the medical department gardens. There's a small cellophane wrapped wreath on the ground alongside a freshly varnished  bench. Around town and on the golf courses there are scores of these memorial benches. All have small brass plaques attached to them with  sentiments like ' He worked in Detroit but his heart was in St.Andrews '. Someone in the town council arranges for a floral arrangement to be put out on the requisite bench on the anniversary of the  donors death. There is something rather wonderful about these old fashioned courtesies. The wreath on the ground has been moved by the bench varnishers. 

This morning we go to the cafe by the old church. The scones have just come out of the oven. Sophie has her first taste of freshly baked ( and still warm ) scone. A bowl of fresh water is brought to our outside table. Her delight is palpable.

Then it's time to head home for breakfast and a nap.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe


Saturday was spent trying to get the kitchen fitter to coordinate with the electricians and plumbers. 'The Font' is less than happy to have discovered that the the wall units have gone up before the piping for the cooker hood has been fitted. Come Monday morning the wall units will need to come down again. Angus volunteers the view that changing the kitchen fitter might not be the best way of progressing things . I put the fitters 'mistakes' down to poor communication skills. 'The Font' who always tries to see the best in people is struggling to do so. 

Six am and all is quiet. The street outside the university chapel has been blocked off with traffic cones. In the run up to graduation there's a sudden rush of youngsters wanting to tie the knot. Anyone who is  a graduate can get married here. This is now peak tying the knot season. On the train up from London there were groups of friends and family heading north for one or other of the weekends nuptials. The old chapel bells will be hammering away all day . Tourists of course love it. Nothing like a group of folks in kilts and the inescapable sound of the pipes  to reinforce the view that Scotland really is Brigadoon. This afternoon Duke University Choir will be giving a concert, yesterday it was a choir from Pomona College. Italian and Spanish over nighters must think that this is a very 'cosmopolitan' place. 

Every morning we try to take a different route so that Sophie can find new smells to mesmerize her. Not easy in a town this small . Today we opt to head off along the shopping street. The staff at Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Cafe Nero all wave at her. Angus is ignored. Groups of young men in black tie can be seen returning from whisky powered stag nights.

We pause where the new International Relations campus is being built before detouring to the Mary Queen of Scots thorn tree. This proves to be in full bloom. Not a bad showing for such an ancient thing. Sophie trots along behind me. Sometimes, when she sees a seagull, she sprints ahead. Her approach to seagull hunting might be improved by maintaining a degree of  silence. The head back full on howl doesn't make the cut.

Finally we turn towards home. En route there's a five minute pause while the family diva has a lengthy drink from the dog bowl outside the ice cream store. By lunchtime there will be a queue a couple of hundred yards long waiting to get in here to try their exotic flavours. What the tourist sees and what the early rising dog owner experiences are two different universes.

Saturday, May 27, 2023


Saturday morning  walk time. Sophie finds that her companion is talking on the phone. She settles down on the half landing for a napette. She does this with a grumpy harrumph which makes it clear that a delay was not in her plans. Angus is talking to the joiners who have put up plaster board on the kitchen walls. It would have been good if they'd told the electricians they were going to do this. The electricians have arrived to find all their wall sockets covered. Even Angus, who is getting inured to idiocy, finds this remarkable.

We try to do a different route every morning. This morning its down to watch the guillemots nesting on the cliffs by the bandstand  then we saunter onto the garden at the side of the Catholic church. A pigeon is chased.

Heading back home the pavement is blocked by a group of American golfers. They've booked to stay at the small hotel in town ( the one with the French breakfast chef ) . The plane from the US has ridden the jetstream,  landed early and they're managed to get through immigration and collect their bags in twenty five minutes. To top it all the road from the airport was empty so their coach has made the journey in record time.

This is where the problems start. They've arrived at seven but their rooms won't be ready until three this afternoon. As we pass on our way back to the wee house they stop me and ask where they can get a drink. I explain the bars won't open until ten. ' What about beers from the supermarket ?' asks  a resourceful gentleman wearing a Dodgers cap. I explain that the sale of alcohol in the shops is also forbidden before ten. 'If it wasn't we wouldn't get any work done ' I add. The golfers nod sagely. They traipse off to Starbucks with their clubs. I'd make a bet that they will be in the alcohol section of Sainsbury's by 9:55 and that the shelves will be cleared and empty by 10.01.  A local street sweeper finds the golfers blocking his way. He mutters under his breath.

The sun casting some 'architectural' shadows on the college walls. 24 degrees here yesterday. More of the same forecast for today.

Todays twitter link on progressive French idioms :


Friday, May 26, 2023



Today we start off at seven. Who in their right mind would be out at five thirty ? At the hotel we meet the French breakfast chef. Sophie remembers him and he remembers her. A sausage is offered and gratefully received. Sophie looks back as if to say 'we should make this a regular event'. A gentleman in his seventies wanders over to greet the PONette. She hopes for another sausage but has to settle for an ear tickle. The gentleman lives on the west coast and is over with his wife enjoying the 'balmy weather'. 

A quick sprint alongside the old abbey walls in pursuit of pigeons. Sophie's hunting technique is 'particular'.  It can be safely said no pigeons were harmed in the production of this blog.

Then down to the harbour where we marvel at the warmth in the sun.

The  Volvo is parked by the chapel. This is one of the few places you can park without a two hour limit.  A black vehicle in Scotland is madness. Within five minutes of being washed it's covered in mud and dust. The car will stay in its all day parking spot until late this evening when it will head off to the station . There will be an 'emotional' and vocal Sophie style reunion with her flock. 

Bizarre fact of the day. You can now fly from NYC to the Faroe islands. Now, there's a place that makes Scotland look tropical :

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Duty calls.


The week has moved along quickly. Later this morning Angus is off on the train to London. This is an unexpected trip but one that a dutiful  'executor' has to do. Signatures are required. The trip coincides with a national bank holiday which almost certainly means crowds and delays. The plan is to get the three o'clock train back north tomorrow.

There are rabbits down by the harbour. They are chased with much theatrical tail wagging and howling. The rabbits move a hundred yards further down the grass and look back bemusedly as the PONette races backwards and forwards. She's happy, they're happy. 

The coronation bunting still fluttering away in town. Methinks the town elders have opted to leave the flags up until it's time to bring out the Christmas decorations . This is known as getting value for your money.

The old house that backs onto the end wall of our postage stamp sized garden has had a sprucing up. The pointing has been redone. No doubting that this place was built using stones recycled from the old cathedral. This is also known as getting value for your money.

Next to the bookstore the ladies outfitters has a new window display. The 30's something woman opening up the shop volunteers the fact that woolen outer wear sales are booming. Foreign visitors are surprised at how 'bracing' the climate gets after the sun goes down. It seems the multi-layered, keep the wind out look is particularly popular with Italians who seemingly have a low tolerance for the cold.

An island song for a Thursday morning  :

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Toasted sandwiches. .

The PONette has taken to city life. This morning we find a grey squirrel sitting on the pavement outside the front door. Our day starts early and 'enthusiastically'. The squirrel will soon find somewhere else to sit. By the harbour a professor of organic chemistry is walking a spaniel called 'Ruby'. Ruby and Sophie engage in some cheerful banter before they each head off in separate directions. As they part the six am church bells ring out  - one following on from the other. What better way to start a new day than with the sound of bells echoing over the water ?

On the beach Sophie meets two lively Springers. They whirl like dervishes around her. There's not much time for conviviality before they race after their owner. The family diva wanders after them but soon decides they're too fast and not worth chasing .

Sophie skips happily through the water.  A couple of weeks ago she wouldn't go near the water. Now she's an enthusiastic paddler. 

Heading  home our progress comes to a halt while my companion glares at a duck paddling towards the pier. Why this duck , among the scores of ducks we've already seen today, should warrant the full on glare treatment is a mystery. I put Sophie, briefly, on her lead in case she decides to leap off the quayside and pursue it.

From the harbour it's through the 13th century sea gate and up the steep lanethat leads into town. A man in a battered Dacia pulls over, gets out of his car and talks to Sophie. Angus wonders if this behaviour is borderline odd. A little later two ladies from Philadelphia wander over and ask if they can chat to her. They are here with their husbands. The husbands are playing golf for two days before they head north to Dornoch. 'We're golf widows' they trill happily. ' We didn't vote for Trump' says the shorter of the two. I'm not sure how to respond to this so I smile. She looks at me as if I'm glaikit. The Philadelphia women don't have biscuits so Sophie soon decides that they are unworthy of her attention. She wanders off. I direct the women to the cheesy toast cafe on the beach. They will get a breakfast there that's truly Scottish. I thought the place was unknown but apparently not -

Outside the international school there are a dozen cars with German registration plates. It's the end of term and parents are here to pick up their offspring. Mothers greet their teenage sons who look embarrassed at public displays of affection. Pupils can be picked up any time after breakfast. Teutons take this to mean seven am. Anglo Saxons tend to pick up their little angels as late as possible.

We are now off to open up the house on the coast for the plumbers. Tomorrow, all being well,  the men from Wolf will be here to deliver and install the oven.

The New Testament has been translated into so many languages that it is being used as the basis for next level language translation. 1100 languages in this latest iteration  :

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Plumber problems

We are down on the beach by six.  On the pavement outside the clubhouse there’s already a group of enthusiastic American golfers chatting to their caddies and sharing anecdotes about Augusta and Pebble Beach. Some of the visiting golfers are wearing shorts. I'll bet that they regret the Coral Gables look when the North Sea wind hits them when they reach the fourth hole.

The kitchen fitters have taken out the  old kitchen and the electricians have done whatever  electricians do. There is a slight problem. The kitchen folk think we’ve arranged  a plumber . We think they’ve taken care of it. Seems their guy is away. The best laid plans .... This morning will be spent on the phone trying to find someone who’ll come out asap.

The roofer is at work on the church. Sophie stops at the Italian cafe and quietly watches him shimmy up one ladder then another. He has a cheery conversation with the traffic warden from his perch on top of the nave.

At Dundee station a freshly planted out flower display with a railway theme. Someone is clearly very proud of their gardening skills.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Into town.

The move into the wee house in town completed. This morning Sophie segues back into her city girl routine. Six university ancillary staff stop to greet her. One of I them has dog biscuits in her coat pocket. Four joggers say hello. An American man in a lilac and grey golfing outfit tries to pat her head but shes having none of it. He gets the full on Ponette glare.

IT issues with the blogger / I-pad interface. Normal service will hopefully be resumed tomorrow.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

A disjointed week.

Friday morning. The kitchen units are delivered. The electrician and the kitchen installers , unexpectedly and inexplicably, also show up. They are supposed to start on Monday. Five vans fill the courtyard.  " As we're here we might as well get cracking " says the head kitchen fitter. ' Think again' replies 'The Font' who has a kitchen to pack up and move to the house in town. The kitchen fitters and electricians depart.

For Angus this last week saw two trips across to the other side of the country.  His eldest brother finding that a routine 'dry cough' examination quickly accelerates into something altogether less friendly. Is it better to get too much or too little notice of such things ?  From the front door I can make it to the west coast and back in a day. Never ending daylight and the twice daily flight by Scotlands favourite airline in its doughty twelve seater makes the journey easy if not smooth. 

Family gathering from distant parts. A few bedside minutes alone to tell him that when I was four (and he a worldly wise seventeen ) he was my super star. He taught me my first swear word ( Bloody - and a stern telling off from his father for leading the youngest astray ), listened to the Beatles ( how cool was it listening to Please Please Me in early 1960's Scotland ? ) and knew, to  Angus's satisfaction,  the answer to every conceivable question. He'd been to South Africa and had travelled in a jet. On the mainland he met girls from Paisley and Kilmarnock. What exotic sophisticates they were and what tales he had to tell. One summer holiday we walked down to the harbour to watch the islands brand new Wolseley police car being hauled out of the water after Sergeant McLaughlin parked it on the ferry ramp with the handbrake off. It sank until only the tip of the blue light on the roof was visible above the water. To this day I don't think I've seen anything that could match that for  putting the 'awe' in awesome. I laugh, he sleeps.

On the journey back I stop and enjoy the weak sunshine in the square by the station. There's twenty minutes before my train.  The entire population of Scotland seems to have had the same idea. I admire the lions on the war memorial in the centre of Glasgow. They have a wonderful imperial haughtiness.

Sophie is reunited with the errant component of her flock in the Dundee station car park. We then head to the fancy golf hotel. During Covid it opened an open air bar with red rattan chairs. For once it is warm enough to sit outside and sip a glass of restorative champagne . The staff bring Sophie a bowl with roast salmon slivers out of the oven , basmati rice and beans.  This , she quietly signals by means of much nose licking, is the sort of life she could become accustomed to. The diva has found her milieu. 

This coming week will be busy.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

A more equitable distribution.


The Manhattanites in a talkative mood. They're bemused by the DeSantis teams slogan ' Make America Florida'. There will be some folks who agree but a lot of folks who are turned off by it and prefer their own state whether it's New Jersey or Idaho. .

Sophie is faced with an empty beach and the choice of going right, left or straight on. The arrival of the Pomeranian and its treat dispensing owner makes the decision an easy one.

We detour back to the car via the bacon roll cafe. All in all Sophie is of the opinion that life is pretty good although work needs to be done on making sure she gets a more equitable share of the bacon roll. She'd settle for 90%.