Friday, June 30, 2023

Job done.

Things you learn over dinner in a small university town . The theme tune in the Czech composer Smetanas Ma Vlast symphony and the Israeli national anthem  are both thought to be based on the same late16th century Italian madrigal.

The three seagull chicks are up early. I'd expect them to take their first flight any day now. Boy, they are growing quickly. Things will hopefully quieten down and our sleep patterns return to normal when they flee the nest. From the noise they're making I'd assume they are demanding their four thirty snack.

There's a brisk breeze from the west blowing out to sea. 'The Font' thinks this, coupled to a low tide, would be the perfect time to deal with Sophie's ashes. The tone of voice suggests that this isn't so much a suggestion as a decision. So it is that Angus finds himself up and about earlier than usual. In fact he's up and about much earlier than usual. We wander down through the back alleys to the car which is parked by the castle. The flower beds are now looking cheerfully spectacular in a riot of colour sort of  way.

At an hour that anyone in their right mind would think is ungodly a black Volvo and its two passengers can be seen driving along the road that runs parallel to the beach. This is a time of day that belongs to nefarious activity although being nefarious in a part of the world where it doesn't get dark must be difficult. 

At the vets, when we said au revoir to Sophie,  we had been given a variety of choices of which we chose  the 'biodegradable' and 'environmentally friendly' options. Three weeks later a 'tasteful' cardboard tube with a picture of a bluebell wood printed on it was delivered to us.

Sophie discovered water late in life. She was initially wary of it but by the end, when she was in her 'nothing troubles me' mindset, walking in the waves was a favoured pastime. The decision about where to scatter was therefore an easy one. So it is that we track our usual path through the dunes, across the sand and down to the empty waters edge.

Until now little thought had been given to the practicalities of ash scattering . Having a westerly wind blowing certainly helps matters. To ensure maximum dispersal Angus takes off his shoes and socks and rolls up his trousers. Running along the shoreline holding the biodegradable container aloft like the Olympic torch ensures a smooth, if theatrical, way of ensuring that the diva is gently borne on her way. Gulls, crows and oystercatchers wading along the waters edge sensibly take wing as this unusual ash spouting sight bears down on them. 

We both agree that this little private moment was a fitting, if slightly dippy, way of bidding a  fond farewell to an old family friend. We hurry back to the car as Angus wonders whether the North Sea chill has cut off the circulation to his toes and feet. There is much laughter - which is fitting. PON owners understand laughter .... and mischief .... and stubbornness.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

They eat barnacles.


The super efficient workmen from Edinburgh are settled into a routine. They start at eight and work solidly through until four. At eleven thirty they stop for half an hour and have lunch in their vans. Deliveries of materials occur on a just in time basis. Yesterday a large truck brought more concrete and breeze blocks. The ironmongers have now installed the metal uprights for the conservatory and will return later today to cut them down to size. By close of business the ground will ( hopefully ) have been levelled and the concrete laid for both the conservatory and the new garden room.

The latest skip is nearly full. A fifth is on order.

Down on the coast the small sand beach is home to a kindergarten of sixty or so eider chicks. You try counting eider chicks - they are a study in constant motion ... or to be more precise , paddling. The seagulls stand offshore on the rocks and watch. They seem to know that the eiders take parenting seriously and that they are not to be meddled with. Eiders live on barnacles so their beaks must be powerful. 

Another whale carcass has been washed up. It's been a couple of months since I've been down to this stretch of coast below the cottage. The carcass must have been here for a while as its been picked entirely clean bat some flaps of skin.

Back in town we cut by the front of the cathedral on our way to the Italian coffee shop. In these days of never ending light there are American and Asian tourists wandering around  trying to work out through jet lag what time of day it is.

Discussions over where to stay in Colorado continue. America , outside the coastal fringes, is really quite exotic. 'The Font' is surprised to find lamb chop fondue as a starter on the dinner menu of this hotels restaurant  :  Whoever knew such a thing existed ?

There seems to be a lot of action packed into this one paragraph :

Best graduation address of the year ? :

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Strong suspicions

'The Font' gets this mornings wordle in 3. This prompts a shout of ' I've got it ! '  over the oatmeal and strawberries. In the papers a story about a tourist who has carved the words  "Ivan + Hayley 23" into the walls of the Colosseum with a key. This act of desecration has upset the Italian government who want him found and charged. A fine of $17500 is the penalty for defacing a historic monument. The newspaper pedantically tells me that 'the subject has not yet been identified but there are strong suspicions that his name is Ivan'.

The three seagull chicks are up and about at five. They're making it clear that they're hungry. First light is the perfect time for the father to go scavenging in the rubbish before the dustbin men arrive. The mother watches her brood as they get close to the edge of the neighbours kitchen roof. Seagulls, it has to be said, are noisy - and early rising - neighbours.

A solitary dog walker on the beach. The black labrador accompanying him wanders over to let us see that he's got a ball in his mouth. He then plods off after his master. The dog has an air of total ( make that supreme ) contentment that makes it clear that walking on the beach while holding a ball in your mouth is not the sort of multi-tasking talent we're likely to see every day.

In the old part of town some unusual architecture. I'm guessing the rooms at the top of the tower are let out to a super fit student.

The hydrangeas coming into flower on many of the house fronts. A better choice for the stonework than ivy .

How's this for modern technology ?

Gloom rather than anger drives support for populist politicians . There may be something in this :

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Buddhist monks.

It reached 27 degrees at the end of last week. For Scotland that's unusual. This morning there's a layer of thin cloud which makes our walk along the beach 'refreshing'. We meet the regular dog walkers . It's taken 10 months but we've moved beyond the 'Good Morning' stage to the 'Isn't this weather wonderful ' level of greeting .

Outside the cottage on the coast a port-a-loo and a skip share the courtyard with piles of plasterboard and new drainage pipes. Out of sight in the farmers field beyond the fence are sixty sacks of cement. The builders will be working all this coming week and then stopping for a two week holiday. While they're away the decorators will come in and the electricians will run a power line to the site of the planned garden room . It is possible that everything will be done and in place by mid-July bar the worktops which for inexplicable reasons can't be fitted until early August. This would be a full three weeks earlier than scheduled.  After three weeks of being incommunicado the joiner has reappeared and is promising to install the additional bookcases in the house in town. 'I'll be there on Tuesday' he says cheerily.

The offerings at the cinema targeted at teens and pre-teens.

On our way home we pass a group of harried looking Buddhist monks.

Two of the monks colleagues are unloading a 'yurt' from the top of an old white VW van.

Buddhist monks unloading a yurt from the top of a van are not something that's seen every day in Scottish coastal towns.  Half a dozen dog walkers stop and observe proceedings. Angus joins them.  In a small town you can't be choosy - you take your entertainment where and when it's offered.

Scottish seaside towns are big on ice cream. This is probably the most famous :, this is our local :  and of course the French always manage to come up with flavours no one else thinks about :

Monday, June 26, 2023

The leap


One of the groundsmen is examining the lawn that he's just cut. 'That's looking good ' I say. " Would be better if dogs didn't pee on it " he replies while looking at a trail of lush green circles on the grass. I smile at the thought that Sophie's mischievous presence continues. There are other lawns that also evidence her DNA. I keep this thought to myself.

Down by the harbour a yacht is setting out through the sluice gates.

The yacht owners wife guides her husband through the gates, closes them,  then sprints along the quayside to the pier.

In the outer harbour she signals her husband to position the bow of the boat so that she can leap on it. The leap when it happens is a close run thing. For a moment it looks as if she's going to topple into the sea but gravity moves her forward onto the deck. Words are exchanged.

Rain last night and cloud this morning. A seagull has built a nest on the roof of a neighbours conservatory. Mother sits there all day. Father wanders off in search of food for the three tufty headed chicks. They aren't so much growing as exploding in size. This may have something to do with father returning at all hours with a  diet of discarded fish suppers or pizza crusts that he's foraged from restaurant dustbins.

So starts another warm day in a Scottish summer.

Sunday, June 25, 2023



Angus is up early and on the phone with the super smart Los Angeleans. Folks are  waking up in Moscow this morning and  pretending that nothing has happened but things will be different from now on. The top guy in LA injects some humour into the conversation by saying ' It only serves as a reminder that you can never be too careful when choosing your catering company '.

Yesterday, we went to collect and pay for the art work for a Godsons wedding. It was finally ready to be unveiled ( and if we like it ) shipped to the States.  We arrive ten minutes late but are greeted with the words ' You're early'. The artist rushes off to change and leaves us in the hallway which is full of twenty or so paintings waiting to go to an exhibition. There is rather a fine ceiling lantern that floods the house with light.

The artist has a studio that is very 'lived in'  although chaotic might be a better description.

She suddenly realizes she's wearing her slippers.

Then there's the recognition that the sole on the right slipper is hanging off. ' How chic is that ?' 

We stand and laugh. The artist says the sound of laughter should accompany  ' a new painting into the world '. There is something in the serendipity of this that makes sense. 

Her mantelpiece is full of interesting and 'whacky' things that she buys in junk shops and then works into the painting as the muse takes her. She has chosen lots of small romantic hearts and birds for this composition.

Back at home I'm about to  make a reservation at a hotel in Colorado. 'The Font' reads the hotel blurb out loud  in a 'are you quite sure ?' tone of voice -  ' Our coffee bar/reception is a cool gathering spot for Denvers movers and shakers and you can expect to be surrounded by digital nomads and power brokers who'll be impeccably dressed. REMEMBER : High style in the Mile High City often means luxe athleisure wear worn with relaxed aplomb '. Neither of us is quite sure what athleisure wear is  let alone how you would wear it with aplomb - relaxed or otherwise. The small print also says that there's a $35 per person amenity fee plus tax plus urban investment charge added to the bill at check out. We shall look for another hotel that might be a little less 'hip'. Angus is still unsure how a downtown hotel with no amenities can charge an amenity fee. Are elevators amenities now ? This is the second time in as many weeks he's come across this hidden charge.

Now that's hot. A 2023 high :

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The heat continues.


Manhattanites and the super smart Los Angeles folk are on the phone early. With tanks on the streets of Moscow their worry is that a coup is taking place. Russia, like all dictatorships, is super stable until it isn't. The leaders of Libya and Mali and Sudan and all those other African countries  who are kept in power by Prigozhins Wagner Group  must be nervously following events this morning. Predicting the future is a fools game but if you have to wear a jesters hat then Putin will probably survive this mutiny for a few months and the Ukrainians will be happy that their opponents are split. Change is in the air if not on the doorstep.

Here life continues in stolid Presbyterian fashion. The biggest complaint is the weather. A gentleman can be seen walking along the shady side of the street with his bagpipes. Although it's still early he's taken off his jacket because of the heat. On the other side of the road people are sitting having their breakfasts at outside tables. How continental is that ? 

The golfers already heading down the Old Course. They are enjoying themselves. Angus is of a generation that views shorts on the golf course to be 'incorrect attire'.  This also holds for tennis players that wear coloured outfits rather than whites at the Queens Club. I do not burden the golfers with my views on their clothing choices.

The front page of the newspaper leads on unregistered taxi drivers over charging visitors. The story seems to be based on two alleged incidents, one of which happened last year. It is summer doldrums news time.

Have started this. It's jauntily written. The revolutions of 1848 appeared unexpectedly everywhere at the same . They ushered in new parliaments, new freedoms and new constitutions. Nothing like it was seen again until the late 1980's with the changes in central Europe. The failure of the revolutions spurred emigration to the US and saw a new wave of settlers heading into Wisconsin and the Dakotas and places further west. A subject about which I knew little.

On the college lawn someone has left a Lego cat. I chuckle to think what Sophie's reaction to it would have been .

A group of twenty or so Czech tourists are standing by the dustbins outside the shoe shop. They're peering upwards at a sign eight feet up on the wall. I'd not noticed it until now.

So starts a beautiful Saturday morning in a wee Scottish coastal town where it seems nothing ever happens .

Friday, June 23, 2023

Darkness is a stranger.


High summer. This far north darkness is a stranger . By six, when we make it onto the beach , the sun is already high in the sky. It's warm.

To the right of us , in the direction of town, the lady with the Pomeranian can be seen striding along the tide line.

To the left ,far down the beach towards the estuary, is arthritic Archie and his mistress. Apart from that - and the fulmers and the oystercatchers - we have the place to ourselves .

The golfers are already starting to cluster round the first tee on the Old Course. A thirty something Irish guy and his wife are doing their best to hide their excitement while they wait their turn. 'Is it always hot like this ?' the wife asks as we pass by . "Always. Just like Dublin " replies ' The Font '. Everyone laughs.

A sign in the window of the cheese monger - ' Getting married - Why not have a cheese wedding cake '. 

The theologians are up and about . They head back home tomorrow.  A group of them are sitting outside the 'theology tent' drinking coffee and enjoying the sunshine. Incongruously the sound of that 80's techno hit ' Pump up the jam ' is playing , loudly, inside the tent. Some theologians are clearly more 'hip' than others. We pass a sign with the discussion topic of the day : ' Your children will go their own way; people you care for will die. Also, generally speaking, no one really understands the role they're expected to play '.  They've got a cheerful day ahead of them .

Yesterday saw more excitement at the last wee house before Denmark. The fancy Edinburgh builders arrived with a huge truck. This carried more bags of cement than you'd think possible. Large steel beams were unloaded. Two large portaloos were also delivered. A practical, if unexpected, touch.

Thursday music :

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Stuck on the railings.

Last night, on our post dinner walk, we pass the cathedral. By eight o'clock this is firmly closed and all the doors into the precinct locked . Somehow, a dozen very drunk golfers have clambered over the walls and are enjoying a boisterous private tour. The walls and railings must be at least eight feet high so getting in is no small feat. We watch as they wander round, trip over the gravestones and then try to make their way out again. Alcohol and generous waistlines make egress difficult. Two leap out like gazelles. The others are less athletic. One particularly ample gentleman from Oklahoma finds himself stuck in the gap between the top of the railings and the war memorial. We leave the scene as his colleagues attempt to pry him loose. Nothing like seven or eight pints to make a fifty year old man act like he's a twenty year old....or complicate rescue missions. Amid much hollering from him and drunken laughter from his colleagues we continue our walk.

This morning the postman delivers the latest hard e-book copies of the blog. This brings us up to the start of the family divas latest 'great adventure' two weeks ago.  Yesterday, the vet called 'The Font' to say that Sophie had arrived in the surgery. This is a rather overly twee way of saying her ashes have returned. When the weather is suitably stormy and the tide flowing out to deep water we shall take her onto the shore and say au revoir.

This was wonderful reading. Well written with a fun fact in every sentence. I didn't think it would be a 'hard to put down' topic but the author writes knowledgeably and with humour.

The overnight wind has brought down the roses on the west wall of the garden. They had grown very top heavy in the recent heat. Angus heads out with the secateurs and a roll of wire. 'The Font' fills every vase that can be found.

Another chance to take a photo of the 'installation'.

Also a chance to read the signage. 'Resonance' like 'cohort' is one of those trendy words you mostly hear in university surroundings.

In the rock pool by the castle a large group of German teenagers are taking a seven am dip in the North Sea. There is much bellowing. Angus has to wonder which other nationality would take a dip in the North Sea with such enthusiasm ? 'The Font' points out that stereotyping nationalities like that is decidedly politically incorrect but has to agree.

Last night the girls from Madison gave a concert in the old kirk. With all the students and many of the faculty away the audience was made up of townsfolk. They sang beautifully. High school music is clearly alive and kicking in North America.

Having seen this photo I want a martini made with glacier ice more than anything else. Why had no one told me about such things before ? I bet it tastes great :

Wednesday, June 21, 2023



St.Andrews is home to an army of aggressive seagulls. They open up all the dustbins in search of food and drop whatever they can't eat across the pavements. The gulls have a particular love of discarded fish suppers. In an attempt to outfox them local residents have been issued with large beak resistant black bags for their rubbish. On dustbin day these have to be tied to either your front door or a downpipe to stop the gulls scattering the contents everywhere. The dustmen won't collect anything that doesn't meet these new seagull defeating standards. On our walk this morning black bags can be found lined up like ghouls outside all the front doors.

It's difficult to get a good picture of the  installation art that's appeared on the chapel lawn.

 I spot one Japanese lady standing wondering what it is.

There are a lot of Australian theologians about. In a particularly unscientific observation I note that it's a  near universal truth that they prefer backpacks to briefcases. The large marquee that was set up for the debaucheries of the graduation ball has been repurposed into a 'theology tent' for the incomers. There is, I suppose, a moral in that.

Down on the coast the fancy Edinburgh builders are hard at work. Five of them showed up yesterday. Two of them dig holes and the others load the demolished conservatory into a skip. The skip has been filled so another will need to be ordered today. The  supervisor is not a 'ray of light'. He tends to the ' If that's what you've agreed with the architect then I'll do it - but it's not ideal '  view of life. The good news is that the bathrooms have been completed . The less good news is that the water in the house has been turned off until the electrics in the kitchen are installed. 

Meeting the Toulouse rugby team the French President has been videoed downing a bottle of beer in 17 seconds. Critics say this is an example of toxic masculinity :

This London museum re-opens tomorrow after a subtle make over . The architecture is said to be both understated and good :