Monday, July 31, 2023

Warmer ?


Monday morning. The Manhattanites discuss Mar-a-Lago ( again ) , analyze rumours that dismissed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang had been caught in a British honey trap and observe that climate change is experienced in very different ways depending on whether you're in northern or southern Europe. Half way through the conversation the seagull chicks on the neighbours roof  signal that they want breakfast. Angus steers the conversation to a close.

The weekend here was very 'Scottish'. The weather was of the 'rain one minute, bright sunshine the next ' variety. This didn't deter the visiting brass band who sat under the canopy of the newly restored band stand while the audience braved the showers. A large group of German pensioners fill up the blue plastic seats that have been set up on the grass. A number of them are soon sound asleep. Coach tours can be exhausting .

I've seen many more people venturing into the sea this year. It is supposedly 3 degrees warmer than average. That might also explain the number of dead jelly fish that are being washed up on the beach. 

At a piping contest lots of serious men pacing to and fro while listening , attentively, to the competitors.  There is also a dog show which has attracted families ( and their pooches ) from far and wide.

It's clear that many dogs do not like ( and certainly aren't used to ) the sound of the pipes. It must be something to do with the frequencies. One fellow looks at me forlornly as if to say ' Can't you do something about this ?'.

The pipers continue to pipe oblivious to the worsening weather.

The Old Course is closed on what is known in these parts as The Lords Day. In between downpours visiting tourists scurry onto the Swilken Bridge to have their photo taken. This is the ' Holy of Holies' of the golf world. Recently. the town has been inundated with groups of Japanese teenagers on day excursions from Edinburgh. They do their best to hide their boredom. It is presumably the season when youngsters are being sent abroad to hone their language skills. I think they might have preferred a trip to Santa Barbara.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The 'lad' strikes again.


Darker in the evenings. Six weeks ago it was light until midnight. Now it's getting dark by ten. Our last walk of the day made stressful by kamikaze seagull chicks wandering towards oncoming cars in the twilight. 

The summer school at £7k for three weeks has now started on its second programme. The town once again full of bored looking teens wondering what they've done wrong to been sent to this small grey town by the sea. At the end of three weeks they will of course have settled in, made new friends and be loathe to leave. The school sensibly has a rule that limits enrolment from any one country to 10%. If it wasn't for this I'd reckon that it would become an outlet for  Anglo/American kids. As it is the school seems very popular with Asian parents, if not their offspring.

This morning sixty or seventy motor bikers drive down the street by the cathedral. They're all enjoying themselves although the townsfolk who have been woken at six thirty by this raucous display may not be so happy.

Progress on the garden hut. We can now see what the view from inside will be.

This coming week should see the arrival of the triple glazing. The windows are 10 feet by eight feet and have to come from the workshop in Glasgow. They are also very heavy and have to be held in place by large metal girders that have been sunk into the ground and then concreted in place. Thankfully, by the time the joiners have done their work the metal beams are almost invisible. The glass is designed to darken in bright sunshine so that the temperature inside remains comfortable. We shall see.

On the other side of the house the roof slates are now going on. There was a slight 'accident' on Friday afternoon so more slates will be delivered on Monday. 'Diesel' , the young 'event'  prone lad managed to roll his wheelbarrow into a stack of slates that had just been unloaded from the builders flat bed. Gravity did the rest.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

A special place.

The well fed town C-A-T passes us as we walk off to the cathedral for our morning walk. As it draws level it emits a loud hiss. This makes it clear that C-A-T  is not in a mood for small talk. It may also indicate that C-A-T knows we are irredeemable dog folk.

To the Post Office to pick up a parcel. What a surprise ! An exceedingly kind lady in Atlanta ( also a PON owner ) has commissioned a wonderful oil painting of Sophie. The artist has captured the four square  stance of the family diva standing by the gate down to the shore with a storm rolling in behind. The PONettes quite remarkable ' Don't mess with me' look of determination has been caught. In one of  the winter gales that pound our small corner of paradise one side of the gate pier fell down. Sophie was quite happy with this as it meant she could now clamber over the rubble and avoid having to leap over the cattle grid. Getting to the beach was suddenly much easier. Cattle grids in Sophie's view were works of the devil and best avoided. This picture will hang in a special place. 

Our ancestors drank alcohol more - much more :

Friday, July 28, 2023

Fever pitch.


This mornings conversation with the super smart Los Angeles folks covers Governor DeSantis's uncharismatic small talk, Trumps never ending secret documents revelations, the disappearance and then reappearance of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang  and finally, aliens. Nothing new here. The Zoom call is over and done with mercifully quickly.

The good coffee cafe has freshly made cakes. I order a chocolate cake and a fresh fruit 'surprise'  to take away. The young woman behind the counter tells me the chocolate cake is 'vegan'. As a hint of doubt crosses my face she quickly goes on to say it's 'delicious'. That clinches it.

The work at the cottage on the coast is now running at something akin to fever pitch. Five vans, nine workmen and a large delivery truck showed up yesterday. The same numbers are expected today.  The builders have erected a large tent on the front lawn so that the garden room materials can be kept dry from the showers  that blow in every hour or so from the sea. If all goes well the last of the metal posts should be soldered into place this afternoon. The slates for the conservatory roof should also be finished and a start made on laying the wooden flooring. By the middle part of next week most of the heavy work should be done. The electricians have gone south to a job in Yorkshire but promise to send a team back on Wednesday. That August 9th date for moving back in still holds.

The weather is very Scottish. Bright sunshine one minute - dark clouds the next. Last night, before we leave, a fresh Portaloo and yet another skip are delivered.

In town five seagull chicks can be seen resting on the lawn by the graduation hall. They are too comfortable to move just because we're walking by. They squawk in irritation. 'Our' three chicks remain on the flat roof of the next door kitchen under the watchful eye of their parents. A neighbour tells us that from hatching to first flight takes six weeks. Surely they must go soon ! This morning the three chicks waited until 4:48 before they told their parents that it was time for breakfast.

This article on India was very 'adult' :

As was this piece from Krakow :

Thursday, July 27, 2023


A beautiful day on the east coast.

Less so on the west coast. It's dry but in a way that hints the weather may change its mind at any minute.

We're over in Glasgow for my eldest brothers memorial service. Angus isn't quite sure why there's a memorial service but it's well attended and good humoured. People say nice things and get ever so slightly emotional without getting carried away by the immediacy of events. Those gentlemen not in kilts wear suits (  white shirts and black ties much in evidence ) and ladies wear black broad brimmed hats. The church is a shrine to 19th century Presbyterian 'no frills' piety. Alternating plum and pink pew cushions ( a colour scheme that rightly never took off ), varnished pine furniture ( smelling of a century of ingrained polishing with Pledge ) and a solitary stained glass window with  Jesus holding out his arms in a beatifically welcoming manner while preaching to a surprised looking pelican. On closer examination the pelican might be a flamingo. It's a sort of generic exotic bird that's half pink and half turquoise. The window was bought in the 1890's at a 'good price' by some canny church elders from a firm of stained glass manufacturers that had gone bankrupt. The kirk elders clearly prized value above avian accuracy. Jesus , I notice when the sun briefly makes an appearance, has ginger hair.

Further along the street a small crowd tapping their feet to this very Glaswegian music :

One of the secrets of Scotland is the rail system. Everyone likes to complain about it but the Scotrail trains get us across the country ( and back ) in comfort and on time.... to the second. Travelling by train means Angus can have a wee dram before heading home. On the journey out of Glasgow four rail employees sitting behind us discuss the capital cost of combine harvest ownership. They wonder how you define sunk costs on a piece of equipment that is only used during a brief three week harvesting window ? Changes in field size, interest rates, amortization and government subsidies all discussed in a way that reminds you that the electorate isn't as disinterested or uninformed as the papers would have you believe. One of the men says his son has just started work as a green keeper at a golf course but is hating it. 'He gets hay fever badly'. Everyone agrees that being a greenkeeper and having hay fever isn't ideal.

The scenery en route, although we're in the crowded central belt and not the Highlands, is wonderful.

Back in town we see seagull chicks everywhere. There's a dozen or so sleeping on the ground by the medical building store room. Seagull parents seem to be extremely diligent until such time as the little ones flee the nest. Then they seem to be left pretty much to their own devices. The poor wee things scamper around the streets hoping passing cars brake for them. Our three chicks remain flapping their wings on the neighbours flat roofed kitchen extension. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A lost day.


Yesterday was a lost day. The glaziers ran late. As in five hours late. Their 'new lad' goes to fill up the van with petrol. It's only when the van stalls three miles down the road they they recognize that he's put in diesel rather than high octane. The van has to be towed back to the depot and a replacement found. A glass door pane gets broken in the process of unloading and reloading.  There goes the morning. No one thinks to tell us. The joiners and electricians do their best to find things to do but the installation of the glass was pivotal for the schedule. The electricians are starting a new job in Yorkshire on Thursday so time is at a premium.

In the afternoon the temperature plummets and the showers turn into a thunderstorm of classical proportions. This is not advantageous for fitting triple glazing to a metal frame. Further north the overnight temperature fell to just 3 degrees. That's chilly for November let alone July. Let's hope some of the lost ground is covered today. We'll be there to open up at seven this morning. 

In the evening , on our return to town, we find the chapel door open and a group of tourists sitting listening to the organist practising for the coming weekends services. The chapel is warm and dry and the audience seem grateful to get out of the cold.

Substack proving to be a great new source of information and opinion. An interesting take on ivy-league admissions . That 1% keeps on appearing :

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

A fair slug of the Navy.


Not much warmth to be found this morning with a bracing wind blowing in from the North Sea . The weak sun struggling to get the air temperature into double digits. We pass three early rising youngsters on the cliff top walk. They are having one of those intense 'putting the world to rights' type conversations that 17 year olds thrive on and are too busy talking to notice us.  I'm guessing the youngsters are part of the new intake of students that will arrive in October and are out scoping the place ahead of time. Four Royal Navy ships are at anchor in the bay. That's got to be a fair slug of the Navy.  Presumably the Russians are out and about being mischievous in the North Sea. A RAF fighter doing touch and goes at the local  airbase reinforces this suspicion.

The electricians want to start work at seven thirty. This means we're on the beach at six fifteen for a forty five minute walk before heading off in the car to open up for them. Rain is forecast for the rest of the week so much of yesterday was spent putting up tarpaulins to cover the woodwork and exposed insulating foam. It's to be hoped more progress is made today.

Surprise of the day. The shoreline is covered in thousands of small jelly fish.

As we walk along the sand it becomes clear that its not thousands but tens of thousands of these wee things that have been washed up. Whatever could have caused this to happen on such a scale? We're used to seeing dead jellyfish but usually in the low dozens .

'The Font' is valiantly trying to keep the garden in the wee house under control. The roses and honeysuckle are more than thriving in the warmth of the Scottish summer. The house is full of freshly cut flowers and smells like a florists. Whoever knew honeysuckle was such a robust and vigorous plant ?

Last night a ceilidh in the examination hall. Long dresses and kilts much in evidence.  A group of lawyers on an American Bar Association 'refresher' course pass the open door and wonder if they should go in. As we return after our evening tour of the town we see that they're throwing themselves with abandon into the country dancing.

A lady visitor in the restaurant we dined in last night had prepared herself for a trip to Scotland by watching this video. " It was so helpful ".  :

If I've understood this correctly the US CO2 emissions are back to the levels they were in 1945

Monday, July 24, 2023

' Adored '.

Monday mornings conversation with the dark suited Manhattanites covers forest fires in Greece, an inconclusive Spanish election result, strange behaviour by New Zealands Justice Minister and a thwarted drone attack on Moscow. The Zoom call rounds off with the New Yorkers observing that Israel continues to tear itself apart and that the Washington Post is set to lose $100 million this year. It looks like the US will have ( another ) government shutdown on October 1st.

On our way to pick up the local paper we pass an extremely determined Westie taking his mistress for a walk. Their progress is slow but steady. The Westie has a waist line that hints he is 'adored'. 

Over in the village the cows are enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. Today, they are lying in a near perfect circle in the middle of the field by the doocot. Two of them ( the wild things in the herd ?) have wandered away from the circles symmetry to munch on a patch of long grass under the beech trees. This morning we expect eight workmen to be at the last wee house before Denmark. Insulation panels are to be fitted, the slates for the roof delivered, under floor heating to be plumbed in  and new drainage for the garden installed. We shall see what happens.

In the farm shop some rather unexciting looking peaches. We miss going to Grand Frais in France. The logistics of chilling and then thawing fresh fruit for a journey across the Channel and then up the entire length of the UK does little to maximize flavour or texture.

Sunday, July 23, 2023


We go to buy tickets at the cinema. Oppenheimer is wide open but Barbie is sold out until the end of next week. Mission Impossible has been extended for another ten days. We're told the first  two hours of Oppenheimer are heavy going but the last hour is an absolute masterpiece.

Can a morning be perfect ? Today's sunrise is ticking all the right boxes. The air warm and scented with honeysuckle. Enthusiastic golfers already lined up at the first tee.

The good coffee cafe has started a new line in mini cakes. In this arable farming region milk alternatives make an unlikely appearance on the menu. It seems that  visitors from down south are mortified to find that only cows milk is on offer. 

In the village on the coast all is quiet. A new skip has been delivered. This makes the seventh skip we've had in as many weeks. This coming week should ( hopefully ) see the conservatory finished and the bulk of the work on the new garden room done. 

Lilac and buddleia in bloom as we head past the village hall and head down to the shore. Despite the installation of street lights this is a view that can't have changed much in two centuries. Three Jack Russells follow us for part our walk. They soon decide we're unexciting companions and head off in pursuit of greater adventures.

On the 100 yards of wilderness between the shore and the farmers fields the rabbits and hares are out . No sign of the deer this morning but the fields are covered in hundreds and hundreds of crows.

Economic reading of the week. Britains woes :

A cool ( in all senses of the word ) place to dine in California:

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Almost like France.


The six  Beverly Hills golfers who've been staying in the pricey Airbnb head off to Liverpool to watch the British Open golf tournament. They return at two am. The slamming of car doors and cheerful ' we're back at last ' banter spurs all the local gulls  into life. A wall of irritated squawking briefly wakes me. I can report that the gull chicks have a wide repertoire of sounds -  amongst them the unusual ability to replicate the staccato beep beep beep of a garbage truck reversing. The grumpy  golfer adds to the commotion by making it quite clear he'd like the gulls to be quiet. He does this in a decidedly Anglo-Saxon manner. His friends tell him to be quiet - 'Don't you know people are trying to sleep ?'. 

This morning bright skies bring out the dog owners onto the beach. The continent may be facing a heat wave but here the day is close to perfect. The temperatures  may get close to 22 degrees this afternoon. There again they may not. One forecast is optimistic, the other less so.

By the end of our morning walk it's already warm enough to sit outside. We could almost believe we were under an umbrella at a street cafe in France. Unfortunately, our croissant  doesn't live up to French standards. It would score a 3/10 on our old marking system. The coffee is, however, remarkably good. Later this morning we'll drive down to the wee house on the coast to see what progress has been made. Yesterday a felter ( not a trade we were expecting to see ), a tiler and a welder joined the cast of workmen putting up the conservatory. Who knows ? The bulk of the work may be finished by the end of next week. 

This book has been a delight. A charming and  ever so slightly sad  account of visiting Britains churches . Many are falling into disrepair as the tide of faith recedes after 1800 years. It captures the sense of old paper , heavy silence and damp plaster that is a part of the nations heritage. All sorts of places, some quirky, are visited. Probably one of the top three books this year for the quality and sensitivity of its writing. Not the sort of book I'd usually read but 'The Font' recommended it and I enjoyed it. I learn that  'eaves drip burials' ( of a type archaeologists find around here ) are where children who were still born or died before baptism were laid to rest next to the walls of old churches. In the early middle ages it was believed the rain running off the roof would be sanctified through contact with the church and would fall and bless the unhallowed souls buried below. The past is indeed a different place .

The Indian restaurant in town has a life sized plaster model of a princess in the window. She's holding a small piece of clear plastic showing which credit cards are accepted. This is a most 'other worldly' sight in a small Scottish coastal town.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Counting fulmars.

Another sunny morning. Even though we are now 'dog less' we're sticking with the PON era routine of rising early and enjoying a brisk morning walk down to the beach. On the road leading to the car park the really good electrician is already at work. This is a surprise as it's only ten to seven. He and his team look up from unloading their van to say 'Good Morning'. They sensibly try to get as much of their work done in the summer while the days are long and the weather warm. Yesterday he was up doing a job in the far North. Next week he'll be down in Newcastle. This must mean that he's either very good or there's a chronic shortage of electricians.  A woman with a small dog with a squiffy face and an over bite is standing by the old church on the cliff edge. She's counting pug nosed fulmars. 'Fewer of them than last year ' she says as we pass before adding ' They live until they're forty '. 

We then have the town and the shore to ourselves. The light is gentle and the old ruins of the cathedral and castle cling to the cliffs with nothing but sea and sky for company. Health and safety still have barriers preventing people from getting close to the cathedral . I'd have thought that the occasional piece of masonry might be expected to fall from 800 year old ruins. 

The seagull chicks have still not had their maiden flight. This morning they are again, noisily, demonstrating to their parents the miraculous discovery that they have wings. Yesterday, after dinner, the Beverly Hills golfer returned to the rental house, opened his bedroom window and bade them a less than charming good night. Surprisingly, they remained quiet until just after six.

A local shop has a DIY  trash collection service. I'm surprised no one has stolen the 'picker'.

Some wine arrives from London. Ordered yesterday and delivered within 24 hours at no additional cost. The packaging is made from recycled paper and is extremely robust.  All our wine now arrives in recycled material - Styrofoam packaging seems to have been outlawed. Wine is much more expensive in the UK than France where it's not taxed at all. Some careful shopping has unearthed the fact that our favourite rose (£45 a bottle here - less than half that price in Toulouse ) is sold under the name of an upmarket London store for £20 a bottle. We are having a small birthday party tonight so it will be tried out on some guests.

A top Icelandic tourist attraction :

I'll never check on a bag again :