Thursday, August 31, 2023

107 metres.


It can't be seen in the first photo but out at sea they're building  a huge new wind farm. The closest turbine mast is ten miles from the shore and , when finished, there's going to be hundreds of them. Each will be as high as the Rockefeller Centre and they'll stretch all the way across the horizon from the Bell Rock down to the Forth of Forth. Another wind farm is planned to the immediate north of this one. The University Professor out walking the arthritic Irish Wolf Hound says that a single sweep of the blades can power a home for 48 hours. He also tells me that the newest models have blades that are 107 metres in diameter and their casings weigh 800 tonnes. This is a lot of information to digest at six in the morning so I thank him and head back to the house. As I go three flocks of geese coming circling by. I can feel the change in air pressure as they pass overhead. Let's hope the wind farm has been sited well away from the birds migratory routes.

Behind us the landscape has now settled into the Scottish autumn palette of green and gold and blue. September ( along with May ) is perhaps the balmiest time in the north.

Angus heads down to Edinburgh on the fast LNER train. It is punctual to the second. Edinburgh is not only sunny but warm. In fact it's borderline hot. The Festival throngs have gone leaving the town with a slightly hung over feel. In Princes Street Gardens I watch a Chinese family take photos of themselves and their daughters dogs.

Angus goes to the tailor for a suit fitting. This takes all of five minutes. While waiting I talk with the folks in the cutting room. There used to be a dozen of them. Now there's only three. ' Young people these days don't want to learn a trade. They just want to go to university and then straight away get a job behind a desk paying £80 thousand a year ' says one gentleman of a certain age. There are also three ladies who still make those wigs that judges wear. That's a specialist skill set that may also die out when they retire. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Go BIG !

It's getting dark by eight thirty now. The high summer days of endless light well and truly over. We try sitting in the garden as the sun sets but it's just that wee bit too cold for comfort. Not even a glass of a good St.Joseph can dispel the unforgiving 'nip' in the air. From a distance the towers of St.Andrews look a little like a sterner version of San Gimignano. There's been an Asian golf tournament at the fancy hotel down the coast. They end the event with 'gala dinner' and a fire work display. The problem with fire work displays is that if you want to have an impact you have to go BIG . The organizers of this event didn't.

The centre of town this morning decidedly quiet. The tourists have gone, the golfers are setting themselves up with cholesterol heavy breakfasts in the 5 star hotels and the students rarely, if ever, make an appearance before ten. The municipal flower planters are enjoying a late season burst of glory.

The sea gull parents seem to have arrived at the stage where their offspring can be left to their own devices. A solitary youngster is hanging around the trash cans outside the supermarket in the hope of finding a discarded fish supper. It stops to watch the university cleaning ladies get off the bus from Dundee.

On the way back to the house a chance to see what the in situ carvers were up to yesterday. The names chiselled into the paving slabs outside the exam hall done with conservative  good taste. A covid era salute to those who weren't able to have a graduation ceremony or had their studies interrupted.

Back here in the village there's time for a walk down the path to the shore before I head off to Edinburgh. There's a large group of seabirds pausing to rest on the rocks down by the shore. Further down the coast nine cormorants can just be seen on the furthest rocks where the coast makes a sharp right angled turn. The cormorants know that the best fish are to be found where the fresh water from the burn meets the deep waters of the estuary. Clever things.

Up here by the wee house another group of geese wheel in over the coast and head straight for the recently harvested wheat field . Migration season is about to kick off. The man with the black Labrador stops to remind me that the village will be having its summer harvest drinks party on Sunday afternoon. ' You do remember you promised us a case of wine ?' he says before adding ' Was it just the one  ?'.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A rarity.

Tuesday morning. A flock of geese fly noisily low overhead then land in the field outside the window. They rest for an hour then, having gorged themselves on grain, head off again.  The geese are just as noisy on take off as on landing. Some village routines haven't changed in a thousand years ...if ever. We meet the farmers wife who proudly tells us that all their peas were harvested and shipped off to the processors in Dundee in the space of fifteen hours. They started at two thirty in the morning and were back home for dinner. Until recently the farm hired in staff to do the picking but with Brexit the process of finding seasonal farm workers has got more difficult. They've invested £430,000 in a new machine which has condensed a weeks work into a single day. She says that local farms produce 10% of the Scottish pea crop. 

In town Angus takes two vases down to the florists. We are hosting a 'reception' this evening for a visiting professor and time is at a premium. Floral arrangements are 'outsourced'. 

The florists shop facade is like every other shopfront in town. Inside it's a different story. A flight of stairs takes you down into old medieval cellars.  A remnant of the cathedral outbuildings that stood here six hundred years ago. The cellars are a perfect cool and dry place to keep fresh flowers.

Returning home a young man and a woman can be seen hard at work outside the examination hall. They're carving the names of students into the limestone paving blocks. Some of the graduates who were here in the pandemic years  haven't been able to get back to receive their diplomas. This is a way of remembering them. The work is slow and exacting and I'm guessing exceedingly hard on the back. I don't want to disturb them but later I'll go over and take a photo of what they've been doing. Angus wonders if these stone carvers do this all year or just part time. How big is the market for in situ carving ?

A monk is walking through town. Seven hundred years ago the town would have been full of them. Now such sights are a rarity.

So starts a busy day in a small coastal town where change comes slowly.

Daily reads. Article #1 :

Article #2 . Hay fever sufferers will relate :

Monday, August 28, 2023

Alpha males.


A national holiday. This of course guarantees that the weather is grey and windy.  On this blustery Monday morning a large flock of geese land in the corn field. We reckon there must  be eighty of them. 

A week to go before the new semester starts and the students are starting to return. Down on the beach the usual cast of dog walkers are joined by a dozen or so youngsters cavorting. I'm guessing that for the students it's not so much an early morning as a continuation of a late night. The boys , determined to ignore the biting wind , rush into the sea. They bellow. The girls, sensibly spurning hypothermia, opt to stand on the shore or 'guard' the discarded clothing in the dunes. This we decide is by far the more rational option. 'The Font' wonders if the alpha males will be feeling quite as 'alpha' after a six am immersion in the North Sea.

We detour to the farm shop. 

Local strawberries and Chanterelles picked yesterday.

Time to decorate the breakfast room. 'The Font' wants Swedish minamilism.

A stern green and blue picture considered but replaced by something 'cheerier'. Give it another week and the  pictures will all be hung and the wee cottage will be ready for the winter. Wednesday should see the final sign off by the builders. After that we'll start work on the gardens. 

By the time the picture is up and in place the sun pops out.

If you listen to one piece of music today make it this  :

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The world their oyster.


Sunday at first light. 'Puppy' and one of her elder sisters can be found in the garden. They're exploring the scaffolding that the builders have left behind.  Puppy likes to dig up potatoes. We find three of them on the lawn. All have been partially chewed. The Jack Russells continue to live in the firm and unshakeable belief that the entire village is their home. They also clearly believe that everyone they meet is part of their family.

A very Scottish morning. Sunshine and clouds. For the last few days the air has had  a bracing chill to it that hints that we're on the cusp of autumn. The first of the migrating birds are now sauntering south. The swallows leading the way. I've not seen one since mid-week. Give it another five days and our wee peninsula will turn into a major rest stop for the flocks of geese heading down to Africa. The first of them are already enjoying the 'gleanings' in the recently harvested wheat fields.

The farmers wife arrives in the courtyard. She has a high pitched dog whistle to call the Jack Russells. They race out of our garden, through the gate and burst like wild things into the corn fields. 'Puppy' carries a potato in her mouth. The farmers wife is heading down to the shore to swim. ' I've managed to get in the water fifty seven days in a row ' she tells us before adding  ' I might get another ten days in before it gets too cold '. It goes without saying that the Jack Russells love following her into the water.  

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Celebration time.


Celebration time. The electricity is connected and 'The Fonts' cabin is now fully operational. Even better , the sensors that open the roof louvres in the new conservatory are installed...and do what they're supposed to .  After 3 months the  building work is now 99.9% complete. Next week there will be a final inspection and then , all being well, our days of dealing with builders will be over.  Now we can move on to getting the gardens seen to. Hopefully, the Portaloo and the scaffolding that's piled up next to it  in the courtyard will now be taken away. Last night we have dinner in the Swedish style dining room which is a major milestone.

There's a sea fog this morning. It seems to have confused the starlings who sit on the telephone wires like so many notes on a stave. The sea fog quickly burns off.

A sure sign of autumn. The poppies are appearing the in the hedgerows.

We're in town early. There's a new butcher who makes his own pork pies that sell out quickly. Know where to look and the fresh produce here is on a par with the best in France. It just takes time to find the right suppliers. The big difference is fresh fruit. In France the bulk of what we bought was sourced locally. There was a chain of fruiterers called 'Grand Frais' that we came to rely on.  Here much of it is imported and has that  'frozen and then unfrozen ' consistency. Scottish strawberries and raspberries are at their best and are devoured accordingly.

Down by the shore preparations continue for the golf tournament. More golf carts are delivered and yet more tents are going up. The Old Course is already busy. Usually the first tee is home to excited folks for whom a trip to St Andrews is something special. This morning the golfers are all professionals. They have an aloof air to them that says St Andrews today, Pebble Beach tomorrow, Augusta the week after that.

By the time we get back to the car the sun is again shining down. It's going to be another wonderful day.

Friday, August 25, 2023

A busy place.


The village has been a busy place this week. In the space of two hectic days the local farmers have managed to harvest the wheat, pea and barley fields. Bales of tightly bound hay dot the landscape. The farmers have now started on the large potato field right in front of the house. One of the farmers twin sixteen year old daughters waves at us from the cab of a tractor. Three Jack Russell noses are pressed up against the cabs glass door. She'll drop off a trailer then go back home and head off to school. No sooner has she passed us than a Ford Transit minibus with Munich plates comes bouncing, slowly, along the farm track. A family of well and truly lost Germans are given directions back to civilization.

I manage to count nine cormorants sitting on the furthest foreshore rocks. At least some of them have survived. There's no sign of the cormorant that waddled across the courtyard earlier in the week. One of the neighbours thinks she saw it fly off into the field where the geese are nesting. We agree that cormorants are  masters of the water but completely helpless on land. 

Down on the beach the usual cast of dog owners are out and about. This early rising demographic are now joined by the super fit running crowd. It can be assumed that these trim young ladies pounding up and down the sand are students - they run at a speed that hints at university team levels of fitness.

Down by the Old Course there's a lot of activity. A major tournament starts in a weeks time. A hundred new golf carts are being delivered and a small city of tents going up. A group of men in Hi-Viz jackets are installing satellite antennae. Come the start of September this small town of 15,000 souls will suddenly play host to 10,000 students and a similar number of golfers.

A colour coordinated gentleman on the 4th green this morning wearing black, red and white plus fours, red socks, bright red shirt and a cap that matches his plus fours. As he tees off on the fifth he hits the ball into the car park. We watch him head off in search of it. He attempts to clamber over the boundary  fence like a teenager but soon thinks better of it. 

Back here on the coast we're still waiting for the electronic device that operates the roof louvres to clear customs. Maybe it will show up today ?

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The geese arrive.


Another brilliant sunrise. The peas have been harvested so we have an uninterrupted nights sleep without being woken at 3:30. 

By six thirty the combines are back in action. For most folks that would be an early start but for the local farmers it's a long lie in.  This morning they've started on harvesting the wheat field that lies between us and the sea. A flock of sixty or so squawking geese arrive and search the stubble for breakfast. We can feel the change in air pressure as they fly low overhead. Rain is forecast for this afternoon so I'm betting the harvesting will be done by noon.

In the paddock by the 'T' junction some new village residents wander over to greet us. Through the bars of the gate their mothers maintain a watchful eye on the little ones. The happy routines of the seasons are stamped heavy on the routines of this place. 

We are also joined on the morning walk by the 'puppy'. 'Puppy' seems to have a limitless amount of energy and is completely devoid of fear. 

More and more 'youngsters' arriving for the new semester. The latest in London and LA fashions mixing among the tweeds and corduroys of the townsfolk. Between the golf tournament and parents dropping off their children getting a restaurant booking in town is impossible. 

Blue and yellow flags in many of the students windows. A year and a half into the war and support among the twenty somethings remains as strong as ever . Today is Ukraines National Day. Here is some suitable music :

Wednesday, August 23, 2023



Three bright yellow combines hard at work harvesting the pea fields. They started at 3:30 this morning. The farmers wife shows up at the front door with a box full of pea pods fresh from the vine. A small peace offering for having disturbed the calm of the wee hours. She's accompanied by the unholy trio of Jack Russells. The youngest rushes into the potato field and returns , proudly, with a raw potato in her jaws.

A cormorant in the courtyard . A beautiful thing with webbed feet and a large fan tail. First time I've ever been this close to one. It's surprisingly big. The bird looks alright but is lethargic in a way which hints it's sick. I hope I'm wrong but for it to have come 100 yards in from the rocks on the shoreline is most unusual. Can it be avian flu again ?

The cabin is ready to move into. We discover that the electrician has done everything bar link it up to the main power supply. The electricians will return on Friday. 'The Font's desk and computer will then be moved in.

The lady with the Pomeranian is hard at work down by the dunes filling a trug with flowers. She's picking Soapwort. As we pass she looks up to tell us it makes wonderful soap. 'So much better than the products in the shops' . The Pomeranian has been to the groomers and is sporting a small red bow tie. 

So starts a Wednesday morning in a small Scottish country village where seasonal routines still hold sway.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Extremely irritating.


Six am. The village already busy. For the farmers the 'sit back and wait' growing season is over. Harvest time is here. On the track that leads towards the village a large combine is turning slowly into one of the barley  fields that line the coast. Behind it, on the other side of the track, a John Deere machine is busy at work cutting the potato plants down to ground level.  Out at sea five small fishing boats are laying out their creels. With a large golf tournament about to start the five star hotels all want fresh lobster. Golfers at upscale resorts seem to exist on a diet of eye wateringly priced Surf and Turf.

No sooner have I opened the front door than a small white bundle of fur arrives with a 'whoosh' out of nowhere. The sudden arrival in the kitchen knows she's chancing her luck. The puppy is picked up and positioned outside in the garden where, shortly after, her two elder sisters arrive . For this completely fearless young farm dog 'everywhere' in the village is home and everything is exciting.

Back at the house in town the electrician has finished installing new wall mounted radiators. These, together with the underfloor heating and larger towel rails, should keep the bathrooms at a temperature that American visitors will consider 'toasty'. The wall mounted radiators are a metre high ( plus ) and 70 cms wide and designed to look like mirrors. First impressions are that they churn out a remarkable amount of warmth. We shall see if they can do battle with a Scottish winter. Their only downside is that they sit 3 cms proud of the wall. 

On our way back to the car a super early rising lady is sitting wrapped up outside the cafe. Only as I get closer do I see her companion in the push chair. More and more fresh faces seen around town now. The count down to the new semester is underway. Outside the house that the American lady has bought there's already a line of four builders trucks. She's decided to have 'work done'. I'm hoping she's not expecting everything to be ship shape and Bristol fashion in the next two weeks.

The black Volvo is a great vantage point for a large gull to observe the towns coming and goings. It flies away reluctantly. It squawks to let me know that I'm extremely irritating.

The line ' a quasi spiritual Texas experience' caught my eye. Perhaps it's the pickled quails eggs ? :

Monday, August 21, 2023



The farmers Jack Russells make their appearance at first light.  From the dressing room window they can be seen, line abreast, heading towards us down the farm track. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they run, but mostly they trot. En route there is a noisy detour while they chase a rabbit into the corn field. 'The last wee house before Denmark' now a regular part of their morning routine.

The four month old puppy  manages to squeeze through the bars on the garden gate, pushes the front door open with her nose and arrives in the kitchen with a ' Where's breakfast ?' expectancy. The older Jack Russells can't squeeze through the space between the bars and sit, impatiently, outside. 

There can be no doubting the Jack Russells consider this to be 'their' village.

A moment of late summer horror in the supermarket. On the magazine rack the first of the Christmas supplements. 

There's a scattering of cloud but the big storm seems to have passed us by. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-20's. This is just as well as the hot water heating system decided to give up the ghost in the middle of 'The Fonts'  morning shower. The first call of the day will be to the electrician.