Saturday, September 30, 2023


An exceptionally high tide this morning. The farmers wife can be seen doing breast strokes out in the bay. Her practical orange swim cap stands out against the grey blue of the sea. The three Jack Russells , averse to water ( or averse to water this cold ) are busy seeking out adventure on the rocks by the foreshore. A doe and her fawn look at us. Further down the track a doe with two fawns does the same. You know you're in the country when you recognize the local deer. No geese this morning but hundreds and hundreds of crows. They do artfully wondrous things as they surf the wind. Every so often they rise en masse , fly off  together and then settle on the stone field walls. The purpose of this repeated routine  is a mystery.

To start with we have the beach to ourselves ...

... but soon a group of students from the oceanographic centre arrive and set up theodolites.  They're learning to measure coastal erosion.  Dog owners start to appear and with them  a young lady in a black track suit who does that Chinese thing that the Beijing authorities don't like.

The supermarket has suddenly gone big on orchids. Perhaps this is when early shoppers buy them for Christmas. 

The multi-coloured Scottie outside the Divinity school battles with the flower beds as the locus of colour. It's rained overnight and puddles dot the courtyard. We detour round them in a zig zag fashion.

So starts a quiet and comforting Saturday morning in a small town North Sea town. 

 Would you want this in your kitchen ? :

Friday, September 29, 2023

Foregoing sleep.


Edinburgh is a windy city. When the wind is powering in from the north it's doubly windy. This is one of those days. The hotels are full of cheerful Americans and Canadians who have cannily worked out that hotel rates are 50% lower than they were in peak season. In the hotel lobby we hear two couples from Chicago list all of the things they've done in a three day bargain break.  They seem to have foregone sleep. Perhaps the secret to Scotland in the autumn is to cram a weeks worth of sightseeing into an extended  weekend.

We go to Old Saint Pauls to see the Alison Watt artwork. We've been told that it's ethereal in the sense of being other worldly. . It isn't there or, if it is, we can't find it. We arrive just as the eight am mass is starting. This is the old Episcopal church in Edinburgh and history haunts this largely unknown and rarely visited spot. Four ageing clerics and a man in a black track suit with a heavily tattooed neck are the only attendees. The clerics sit in pews by the brightly lit altar. The tattooed man wanders around.

The nave is unheated and there's no music so we opt to leave. Why do church doors always make a loud, guilt inducing, creak when you try to make a silent exit? By four minutes past eight we're out and back on the Royal Mile. 

We pass a  shop selling kilts. Angus is delighted that there's not a bow tie or jacket with silver highlights to be seen. He's less enthused about putting buttons on pocket flaps and up sleeves. Why ? What earthly purpose can they serve ? When it comes to highland wear restraint is a virtue. The Brigadoon look can all too easily beckon. 

St.Giles doesn't open until ten. Outside there's a group of Canadians debating whether to go to Starbucks or Pret a Manger. They opt for Starbucks . 'You can't go wrong there' says a man whom the others defer to. They're joined there by a Japanese gentleman in a kilt and a bunnet.  Life is full of the improbable.

On the other side of the square the Auld alliance seems to be alive and not just kicking but thriving. The French have set up their Institut Francais in a very fine Georgian building next to the High Court. There's a cheeky hint of Versailles in the first floor windows.   

Behind a door in the hotel room we find a turret. This has an upholstered  banquette that runs round the walls with a small marble table in the centre. The banquette is much higher than an ordinary chair so you have to hop up onto it. 

From the turret we can look south all the way across the Forth towards Kirkcaldy. Or, we could if only the low clouds would lift. Eagle eyed readers will note that the banquette uses the window surrounds for back rests. This is not a 'comfortable' design feature.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023



Popping down to Edinburgh for a medical once over.

In the meantime here's a photo of the 'Strawberry Tart' Scottie in the bakers window.

Back on Saturday.

Red swim caps.

As we set off from the village we pass the farmers wife heading down to the shore with the three Jack Russells. Puppy leads the way, her two sisters follow on behind. Four deer watch them from the far side of the field. Puppy is too engrossed with something in the tall grass to notice them. The elder sisters, being sensible farm girls, have long ago discovered that chasing deer isn't worth the effort.

' The Chariots of Fire ' beach completely empty this morning apart from three ladies enjoying an early morning dip. The beach here is very shallow. Ideal if you have young children but it requires a long, long walk through the cold water before it's deep enough for an adult to swim in. The three ladies seem oblivious to the discomfort. The sound of their laughter drifts back to the shore. All of them are wearing identical red bathing caps. Perhaps they're part of some sort of club ?

I'd thought we'd seen all the Scotties but there's another one on the grass by the Abbey walls. This is a place where it's seen by commuters into town and by school children heading off to their morning classes.

This Scottie has been sponsored by a banana importing company. It's a quiet design bordering on the sensible although why the dog has a purple moustache escapes me.

All through the peak tourist season the cathedral has been  fenced off. A piece of stone from one of the remaining 14th century towers fell during a storm. Health and Safety immediately got to work and closed much of the place off to the public. Weeds grew everywhere. Now the tourists have gone the grass cutters have returned and work has started on securing the fabric. A large crane with an extendable arm is now parked in front of the 'dangerous' tower.  Even more fencing has been put up.

The room where the Scottish parliament used to meet has been hosting a conference . Although it closed last night the signs are still out this morning. Could it be the philosophers were partying until late ?  There's always something going on in a small town like this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

You are my sunshine


A chat with the Manhattanites. They are surprised with this weeks pronouncements by a Presidential hopeful. General Milley is a 'traitor' , NBC is 'one-sided' and with regards to the coming debt negotiations ' Unless you get everything. Shut it down !'  The Manhattanites fear the uncertainty and polarization will slow the economy further ..perhaps sharply.

Another 'Scottish' start to the day but despite the south westerly wind the golf courses are busy. Viewing stands are up and marquees erected. A large Rotary Club tent has appeared by the club house. The Dunhill  tournament starts in a week or so. We follow a stream of sensibly dressed gentlemen pushing golf carts as they head towards the course coffee stand :  This is I think the first day when wooly hats outnumber baseball caps. Wardrobes are changing as winter nears.

With all the activity on the Old Course the beach is almost completely deserted. Occasionally a youthful runner pounds down the sand but apart from that we have the place to ourselves. It's two and a half miles from the car park to the estuary. We think of going all the ay but turn back halfway to avoid the wind.

By the time we're heading back into town the sun is up and the sky has started to clear.

There's a group of students milling around by the entrance to the exam halls.  They all manage to avoid standing on the PH sign set into the cobbles. This marks the spot where Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake. It's considered bad academic luck to stand there. If you do you'll fail your exams. Only a dip in the North Sea can wipe away that stain. I'd have thought this old tradition would have been forgotten in this rationalist age but not a bit of it. Even we unconsciously change our step to detour round it.

Heading back to the car we pass a group of youngsters being trained for some sort of historical pageant. They seem to be going at each other with swords and shields  in a way that suggests they are enjoying themselves ... as in REALLY enjoying themselves.

'The Font' still managing to fill the breakfast table vase with the last of the roses.

'You are my sunshine'. One song. Two totally different takes . This ones all happy : . And here's Bryan Ferry singing it. What a difference :  Which is better ? Happy or sad ? 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Layered cloud.


No doubting we're back in Scotland. It pours ( heavily )  all night and the wind howls round the eaves like a mad thing. This morning we wake to find that the weather is a little better behaved. The thick layered cloud has gone as has the torrential  rain but the wind is still doing its thing. On the otherwise deserted beach we meet Archie the arthritic labrador and his owner. Archie is getting a little old now and despite injections he's finding it difficult to get up into the back of the car. We promise to pass on the dog ramp so he doesn't have to strain his back legs.

With its tangled fur the Scottie by the cathedral is supposed to look as if it's been out in a St.Andrews gale. How apt.

I like the eyes on this one. They reflect the breeds penchant for mischief mixed with irrepressible happiness. I'm less sure about the colour scheme.

As we head back into town we pass a young lecturer taking three  super exuberant youngsters on a bike ride. I'm guessing the youngsters have woken early and their mother has said something along the lines of ' They're your kids. You do something with them'. Five year old twins and a three year old on bikes, on a cliff top path, in a gale. Now, that's a combination that provides a full pre-breakfast cardiovascular work out. To make matters even more exciting the three year old is making a bee line for the steep path that leads down to the harbour.

The lady who owns  the modern restaurant by the old church is already hard at work setting up for the student brunch crowd. She's not above getting her hands dirty and is sweeping the pavement outside her front door. There's a small pink 'Barbie' Scottie in her window. This has been very popular with tourists who have been flooding into the restaurant as they follow the Scottie trail. Takings are up.

I think this latest sighting means we've found all of the Scotties in town. 

You'd need to go a long way to find a quirkier museum than this :

Although the gift shop at this museum hints that others may come close :

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Every waking moment.

A large coach pulls up outside the cathedral and deposits fifty middle aged French tourists on the pavement by the war memorial. Angus wonders what sort of tour company arranges these super early starts. They must have left Edinburgh at six to get here . This sounds more like masochism than enjoyment. I fear the bus will soon be heading north to do Ballater and Braemar before returning to Auld Reekie in time for dinner. The classic 'See Scotland in one day' option. 

At this early hour tourists looking for a coffee have a choice between the sandwich cafe by the town gate or the cafe with the indifferent coffee next to the medieval history department. At the sandwich cafe  there's a man sitting sharing a bacon bap with two attentive companions. He's drinking a can of Vimto which suggests there's a hangover in his life.

The rugby 1st XV are meeting before heading down to play Edinburgh. One of those matches where each side considers themselves to be superior to the other. Big city boys v country cousins.  The team have taken over the tables outside the pub and are working their way through a not so small mountain of canned lager. One of the players shows up late and is greeted enthusiastically. He's arrived with his girl friend who is still at that ' I want to do everything you do ' stage of the relationship. This desire to share every waking moment will soon be tested by this first exposure to his friends and Sunday mornings standing on a cold, wind swept, touchline.  I'd give her enthusiasm another week. Two tops.

Irritated flat owners pop out of their front doors and stand arms folded to see what all the commotion is about. The rugby players are completely oblivious to the noise they're making. A group of girls in a flat above open their windows and blow kisses in the direction of the team. A cheer goes up.  While all this is taking place a group of renaissance singers in red gowns arrive for a coffee before the chapel service. They are altogether more decorous.

We rarely go in the direction of the bus station ( In fact I don't think I've been there in fifty years )  but this morning we detour to catch a glimpse of another Scottie. It's decorated with a view of the coastal walk that leads from town back to the 'Last Wee House before Denmark'. I'm not sure this is entirely successful.

A bust of Polish General Sikorsky peaks out from a beech hedge. A small posy has been left on the ground next to an inscription saying ' Za Wolnosc'.

So starts another morning in a small town on the North Sea coast.

A cathedral in the US gets new windows ( and old ones go ). I can't imagine the diplomacy , patience and tact needed to get this done :


And a late add on . The King goes to France :

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Westie.

Dog walkers out in force this morning enjoying the sunshine. Real Scottish weather - sunny one minute, cloudy the next. Tickets for the golf tournament go on sale today so the town is already busy with visitors. Parking is a nightmare. The queue from the ticket office window snakes past the clubhouse and up the hill to the Martyrs monument. Most tickets are sold on line but some are reserved for those who'll make the effort to turn out and pick them up in person. There is much sharing of golf stories among those waiting. I'd reckon half of the folks say 'Good morning' as we pass. This is a place where lifes little proprieties still matter. 

The little old lady with the Westie is part of the daily townscape. Every morning at exactly the same time she wanders along the street past the bakers and then turns sharp left by the newsagent and heads off towards the cathedral. Sometimes she stops and leans against a shop doorway to get her breath.  The Westie walks alongside her. They move very slowly and deliberately. Every three steps the wee fellow pauses so that his mistress can catch up. This morning I note that the Westie is wearing a cone. This seems to leave him completely untroubled.

As he turns the corner a young woman with a black dog is walking briskly towards him. He makes it quite clear that this is his street and that he's guarding his mistress. Westies can make a surprising amount of noise for such a small bred. This interplay makes me laugh. He is a small feisty bundle of determination. 

A bunch of flowers on a bench .  I don't think I've ever seen this done anywhere else. There must be someone in a local government department tasked with putting out these floral tributes. They never seem to get stolen.

We stop off at the Italian coffee shop by the divinity school. The first of the golfers have bought their passes and are now heading back to their cars. The street cafes already busy with customers celebrating their success with a cappuccino.

So starts a September morning in a small Scottish coastal town. One of those old  places where nothing ever happens ... but something ( if you take the time to look ) always does.

In the inbox and e-mail advertising holidays staying at temples in Korea. This is seemingly a big thing :

This hotel could only be in Italy :

Friday, September 22, 2023

Covid shots.

A rainbow and a crack of thunder from somewhere out at sea greet us as we head off down the path to the shore. It's nippy this morning. I very much doubt that the farmers wife will be going for a swim in these temperatures although her Jack Russells might.

The thunder unsettles the geese who take to the air and wheel over us cackling as they go. There must be five hundred a day still heading south down the coast.

Finally, the geese settle back down and continue their interrupted breakfast amid the  gleanings of the wheat field.

Down on the beach the wind is up and the sand blowing from the dunes down towards the sea. Dog owners, sensibly, opt to stay on the grass. 

Time for our flu and Covid jabs. We went on Monday only to find the clinic unexpectedly closed. We show up today expecting the place to be packed with the start of the week backlog but it isn't. There's the wife of a professor sitting on  a chair in reception and a nursing mother pacing backwards and forwards impatiently and then us. The staff open the doors punctually by which time another four folks have joined us in the waiting room.  The nurses are cheerful in that no nonsense Scottish way. Covid jabs go in the left arm, flu shots in the right. The lady in charge tells me it's fifty one weeks and four days since our last shots. " Don't forget to drink lots of water if you want to avoid any aches and pains " said matter of factly. She and her three colleagues manage to do fifteen hundred patients a day between them. We're in and out in six minutes.

The silent corridors on the way out tell me that people aren't bothered by Covid this year. I wonder if the staff will hit their fifteen hundred shot capacity ?

We now have a dog corner in the porch. The artist who painted the top picture ( sent by a kind lady PON owner in Atlanta ) got the colour of the local stone just right.

 Discovery of the day :

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Early dining.

Thanks to a warm wind blowing from the South West we wake to 15 degree temperatures - which is decidedly balmy in these parts. The tide is in and the small  lobster boats are already hard at work on the deep water. I'm guessing the fishermen are seeing a surge in demand ahead of the big Dunhill golf tournament in a couple of weeks time. All the 5 star hotels are fully booked and even those 'AA recommended' B&B's that don't face the sea are busy. We're going out for dinner with old friends tonight. The only table we can get is at 6:30. ' Will it be alright if you go by eight thirty? We're snowed under with television people ' says the restaurant owner apologetically.

Puppy is now too large to squeeze through the bars on the gate. The wee thing is completely fearless .... and determined.  To keep track of her the farmers wife has bought a dog whistle. Puppy hears it, extricates herself from between the bars and hurries off. This is the time of day when the farmers wife , Puppy and her two elder sisters head down to the sea for a swim.

In town the ice cream shop is already open and borderline busy. The balmy weather seems to have given a large contingent of  American college kids and a scattering of  local dog owners  a craving for breakfast ice cream. We've noticed that it's not just the farmers wife who goes for a start of day dip in the sea. Every morning, whatever the weather,  there's a regular commute of students down to the water pool beneath the castle. Will this zest for a morning dip end when autumn turns to winter ?

The cliff edge view from the garden of the Catholic church is almost Caribbean.

In the supermarket Halloween displays appear.