Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Farewell to the Scotties.

A surprise discovery in the tourist bureau - another Scottie. Over the summer it's been positioned by the information desk to attract visitors inside but has now been moved to the window. This one has an 'educated fleas' design. I see from a sign beneath it that the Scotties farewell weekend will be in mid-November. 

All the Scotties will be gathered together in the exam hall before being auctioned off and despatched to far flung corners of the globe. I'm betting a fair number will wend their way to golf clubs between Virginia and Georgia. The Scotties have done everything asked of them - they've raised money for the hospice, have made people laugh and uncomplainingly suffered being ridden on by excited toddlers. Only one of them has been damaged.

In pride of place in the window in front of the Scottie a 'Westie' calendar. 

The lobster fisherman was out on the shore again yesterday. He's continuing to find errant creels. Down by the harbour there must now be thousands of them all repaired,  stacked up and waiting for the weather to improve so they can be reset. He says that storms like this used to occur every 25 years. On the town beach a metre of dunes was washed away yesterday. The last combination of super high tides and 100 km/h winds was in 2011 . With climate change he's guessing that we should be preparing for inundations every decade. The man from the garden centre joins us. His father has told him there's not been a period of continued gales like these in living memory.

The high tides have swept sand from the beach onto the street by the side of the yacht club cafe. A warmly wrapped up dog owning couple are already enjoying their Americanos. Their companion is willing them on to buy a grilled cheese sandwich.

Tickets for the Scotties farewell gathering are now on sale. We shall go and see them one last time  :https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=296799079940111&set=a.139803902306297

This was interesting :https://www.wired.co.uk/article/wired-impact-cities-health

Monday, October 30, 2023

Caustic comments .

I'd never heard of Soul Cakes until the dog walking lady who lives in the house next door to the village hall said she was baking a batch . They are, seemingly , an old Scottish Halloween tradition. Such has been the demand that she is taking orders to raise funds for the local food bank. I say we'll take half a dozen. 

The traffic lights by the university library add a little colour to an otherwise exceedingly grey morning. This mundane observation says a lot about life on the North Sea coast as October melds into November.  Pumpkins are now appearing everywhere. The students are loathe to let any excuse for a party go unrecorded. For some reason pumpkins seem to appear in twos. 

A pair of rather crudely carved examples can be seen on a bench that runs down to the lecture theatres. There is a sign Sellotaped to the window behind the bench that informs us that ' this window is not soundproofed'. Is this a way of telling students sitting on the bench that their lecturers might over hear their caustic comments ?

On our way back to the car we see a light glowing in the chapel window.

On the inside the choir are practising. We sit for five minutes, in the warmth, and listen to them. Seems we are getting close to Christmas concert season - snippets of Auld Lang Syne and O Little Town of Bethlehem  mark the start of our day.

Yet more rain overnight. Even by Scottish standards this is unusual. LNER are again stopping their trains at Edinburgh. Is this a prelude to them halting all train services to the North or is it an excess of caution ? There is a small Land Rover Defender parked next door to the Volvo. Angus wonders if we should buy something with better ground clearance. 'The Font' thinks that a vehicle with a built in ladder that enables you to clamber onto the roof is perhaps not what we're looking for. Even though it's only got two doors it fills up the parking space so it's probably not the most practical choice for town. 


Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sinfully ungrammatical.

The clocks have gone back an hour. For the next three months it will be brighter for the kids heading off to school in the morning and for the early rising dog walkers on the beach. The downside is that by four in the afternoon it will be dark and gloomy. Perfect conditions for Halloween parties. To brighten the darkness the council have installed the Christmas lights in the centre of town. Soon a 'C' list dignitary will be asked to turn them on. The Rockefeller Centre it ain't but it's the thought that counts. 

It has rained again overnight. The lake in the potato field has grown from the size of a tennis court to the size of a football pitch. After the last couple of weeks downpours the ground is now completely sodden. There are twenty or so fat seagulls paddling around contentedly in the muddy and presumably nutrient rich 'tatty' water. The Jack Russell puppy has discovered that chasing the gulls through the muddy pond is heaven .... absolute heaven. The farmers wife despairs.

Down by the harbour the North Sea is throwing a tantrum. Waves are breaking over the end of the pier and sending spray shooting twenty feet into the air. A few brave students are standing there playfully trying to avoid getting soaked. We can hear their laughter from the quayside. It's the highest tide I've ever seen. The sea is flooding in over the sea wall. A man, a dog and a toddler are standing watching it. The lobster fishermen have sensibly kept their boats moored in the inner harbour with the sluice gates firmly closed.

A friend tells me that the best book he's read on what's happening in the Middle East is 'Eighteen Days in October'. It's only published in the US but the bookstore ( after some prodding ) agrees to order it. Buying books on Amazon is much cheaper than buying them in the bookstore but if we don't support the bookseller who will ? The shop is a haven of peace amid the pre-Christmas bustle and a source of warmth when the wind is blowing from the North Pole. The first chapter of 'Eighteen Days' is really interesting. Like a Victorian couple we sit in the snug and 'The Font' reads to me while I listen. This avoids eye strain....for me at least.  It also gives us the undiscovered pleasure of being able to discuss things as they unfold. It's clear that Israeli politics is something we know almost nothing about.  I'm not sure how long this Bronteesque reading habit will last.

Earlier in the week a particularly annoying and sinfully ungrammatical headline spotted on a tabloid paper in the supermarket.

So starts a Sunday morning in a small Scottish town where the surge tide will be todays main topic of conversation.

Saturday, October 28, 2023


After last weeks storms the local fishermen continue the tedious task of  tracking down their wayward lobster creels. The retrieved creels have been piled up on the quayside and now form a solid wall that stretches the length of the harbour. More gales are forecast for this weekend so there's no point on loading them onto the boats.

We walk, cautiously, down to the shore. Having got there we walk, equally cautiously, back. It's decided that walking on uneven ground is not wise.

We opt for a more sedate walk along the sea front in town. Work has started on the old hotel adjacent to the expensive apartments owned by the Kohler 'Gracious living since 1873 ' family. The hotel has been empty since the pandemic. Seems that one night recently a group of thieves came and stole all the lead from the roof and a fair amount of the copper wiring.  Everyone thought that the thieves were builders working late. What this will do to the hotels renovation timetable is unknown. 

As we head further along the road we pass the Catholic chaplaincy. The Pope waves at us from a window on the ground floor.

On our way home we stop for a coffee in the atrium restaurant at the large golf hotel. It aims for sophistication but looks rather like the turbine hall in  power station. Coffee for passers by is not possible today. They are set up and waiting for the arrival of a large tour group. There is something very 'regulated' about the layout of the breakfast area.

So starts a Saturday morning under strict instructions to take things 'easy'

This is apparently worth going to Paris to see :https://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en/events/mark-rothko

Friday, October 27, 2023

Enforced idleness.

Another day for taking it easy.

We park by the cathedral and walk slowly down to the artisanal bakers. This rather unadventurous route is chosen because the pavements are in good condition.  A new season selection of sporrans appears in the kilt shop window. 

On the other side of the road the lights are on in the newsagents windows. This is the day when the towns weekly paper is published. The staff are up and about early for the nine am rush.

Down by the harbour all is quiet. The sea is too rough for the fishermen to venture out and it's too early for the students to be up . We have the place to ourselves.

At the Aquarium the seals are making it clear that they're expecting to be fed.

Then it's time to head home. 'The Font' pops into the bookstore to pick up a book I've ordered. Angus, who has to wear a large and somewhat frightening eye patch for the next week, waits outside. There is no point in frightening the locals.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

The atrium.

The hospital is a modern, low rise, building located in a business park . From the outside it looks like all the anonymous corporate buildings that surround it and like all the other surrounding corporate buildings entry is via a large 90's era style glass atrium. Atriums are not ideal architectural features for light deprived northern climates but that doesn't stop Scottish architects from installing them. This atrium has a large reception desk, a variety of two seat sofas in 'practical' navy blue fabric, a coffee machine and a small forest of unhappy looking Yucca plants that try to ignore the chill winds that sweep in every time the sliding doors swoosh open. Within two minutes of arrival Angus is seen by a cheerful anaesthetist in maroon scrubs and lime green hair net. While he takes my blood pressure we talk about rugby. After that everything moves quickly and reassuringly along . It was planned that I would spend the night there but after a couple of hours we opt to leave . The recovery room next door is taken by a young professional football player who has broken his leg in two places. The bones have been pinned together in what appears to have been lengthy  surgery. 'Trust my luck it was a friendly match ' the young man says to every member of staff that comes by. ' Aye right fun and friendly ' says the young mans father adding a robust Anglo-Saxon adjective between the 'fun' and the 'friendly' to emphasise the unfairness of the accident.

For the next three days Angus is supposed to take it easy. What this means in practise is left suitably vague. The weather has turned dreich again but isn't bad enough to prevent us having a brief walk. The fishing boats have moved from the outer harbour to join the yachts in the inner one.

'Jock' the lobster fisherman has been busy. He and his crew have recovered and repaired their inventory of creels and buoys. He thought that 30% of them had been smashed to smithereens but he now thinks that majority can be patched up and put back to work.

He's hoping to be out at work again after this next storm passes through. He looks at my eye patch and promises to drop off some langoustine as a get well gift.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

What a sunrise.

 A busy day ahead. We'll drive down to Edinburgh late this afternoon. This morning there's time for a walk by the Old Course as the sun is dusting the windows of the fancy hotels. The Royal and Ancient golf store already has all its lights on. A few super keen American golfers can be seen standing on the 1st tee soaking up the vibes. They talk in that sotto voce tone that people use when visiting a cathedral.

The view from the beach out to the horizon is straight out of Chariots of Fire.

The storms have deposited masses of kelp on the sand. It stretches for a good mile along the shore and is 100 feet in width and in places three or four feet high. This is unusual. The town dogs are delighted to discover this new source of adventure.  Sadly, we see a dozen or so dead Guillemots. 

Some start of day Spanish cheer :https://youtu.be/UOUSestsfbE?t=4

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Smashed creels.

A quick run through of world events with the Manhattanites. . A vaguely remembered line by CS Lewis could sum up todays conversation - ' Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea , until they have something to forgive '. 

We meet the lobster fisherman and tell him that at least a dozen of his creels have washed ashore in the cove by the cottage. He'll drive out later today in his 4x4 and see what , if anything, he can recover. He lost four days fishing due to the storms and he's now finding that many of his creels have either been washed away or damaged. A large proportion have been smashed to smithereens on the rocks.

The grass above the harbour looking emerald green after all this rain. It is however very slippery so we stick to the path. More rain is forecast but will hopefully be  of a less extreme variety.

The men checking on the structural integrity of the cathedral ruins have returned to work. They have sensibly stayed at home during the strong winds.

Two workmen are sixty feet in the air on a mechanical platform. They're examining what would have been the wall behind the saints altar. One of them is singing 'Baby one more time' in an enthusiastic if atonal manner. On the other side of the wall another gentleman is bravely abseiling  to the top of one of the towers. His effortless movements  make it all look easy. A cynic might think that anything that was going to blow off or fall down would have done so over the last couple of days. I keep this thought to myself.

It's low tide. In the harbour the heron is standing waiting for a shoal of sprats to come swimming by. Alongside a couple of ducks are wallowing happily in the mud. Two dog owners , fellow early risers, wave at us as they cross the bridge by the sluice gates and head off across the beach. Even from a distance you can see their companions tails wagging. Is anything as joyous as a start of day walk ? One of the local farmers is till managing to grow strawberries in his polytunnels. I'd have thought this must be the absolute tail end of the season. We buy two punnets. Surprisingly, they are ripe and delicious and as good as they were in high summer. 

Esoteric fact of the day. They once had an airport in the middle of Angkor Wat  :https://www.nomadicnotes.com/defunct-airports-of-southeast-asia/

Monday, October 23, 2023

Apres le deluge .... Sun !

This morning there's a solitary goose paddling on the small lake that's formed in the potato field. The other geese and the assorted sea birds have resumed their journey south leaving it alone. I'd have to say that the goose doesn't seem in the slightest perturbed. There is an almost imperceptible hint of a frost ring forming around the edges of the lake. 

A glorious sunrise as seen from 'The Fonts' cabin. The small lake in the potato field can be see on the left of the photo. The cabin is a 3 metre by 3 metre cube and is as non-aerodynamic as any structure can be. I thought it might suffer in the recent gales but having been hugely over engineered it has come through its windy baptism unscathed. We are still unsure why such a climatic 'event' should have occurred in our normally tranquil backwater.

The sun has brought the dog walkers back to the beach.

A steady flow of tourists are out on the pier. Tourists are never out on the pier this early. They seem to be a mixture of French and Spanish  so I guess they're tour groupers enjoying  these first glimpses of blue sky after being incarcerated in their hotels with the rain over the weekend. 

A group of six ladies in swimming hats are doing aerobics in the sea water pool. Two black labradors join them. One of the labradors is wearing a flotation vest. The ladies and the labradors seem to be enjoying themselves in equal measure. One of the labradors has a stick which he holds high as he paddles out to show his mistress. He does this repeatedly.

Usually we have Starbucks to ourselves. Not today. There's a queue of caffeine deprived students and locals that stretches from the cash till and spills onto the pavement. We take a seat at an outside table and watch the world go by. It is almost comfortable in the sun although wooly hats are now de rigeur. The Coronation bunting which has brought a little red, white and blue colour to the shopping street has finally succumbed to the weather. The strand by the town fountain has been almost completely stripped of its small triangular 'flags'. A few survivors dangle forlornly mid-strand. 

So starts a Monday morning in a  little town on the North Sea.

This is played on the car radio as we head home. It is the first song Angus can ever remember hearing. 'The Font' doesn't think it made its way to Sweden : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZANKFxrcKU

And here's an answer to a question I'd never thought of asking :https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945223002459

Sunday, October 22, 2023


Every night we open a bottle of wine and watch television for an hour before dinner. Yesterday we saw the final episode of 'How to get away with murder ' on Netflix. An improbable story about a law professor and a group of her students who embark on a series of blood thirsty adventures. The murders, mayhem and plot twists would be right at home in a Guatemalan soap opera but the acting had a carpet curling intensity. How is it neither of us had ever heard of Viola Davis ? What an actress. We are now left wondering what to watch next.

The storm has finally passed us by. The windows rattled and the gutters shook but the power stayed on. This morning the skies are blue and the wind on the friendly  side of bracing. The same can't be said for the sea. The RAF pilot who lives in the village says the conditions are so bad that even the antenna rich Russian spy 'trawlers' that linger in the waters by the local air base have headed to calmer climes further south.

The noise of the surf hits us as we head down the path to the small sandy beach . It's the same basso profundo roar you hear in airport terminals when a 747 is taking off. 

Out in the bay the conditions are quite remarkable. Driven by the wind the waves  rise a good fifteen or twenty feet before crashing on the rocks. The dawn sunrise catches the crests at just the right angle and turns them into so many short lived rainbows. There are scores of them scurrying across the surface of the bay. A sight that is remarkable in its simplicity. Neither of us has ever seen anything like this before. Are wave crest rainbows a thing ? This light show lasts for all of five minutes then stops as the sun rises into the cloud.

Perhaps the bronze age settlers who farmed these fields 5,000 years ago thought they were sprites or spirits. They would certainly  have been mesmerized by this  jewels on the water mixture of light and sea.

The cormorants and fulmars have retreated inland and positioned themselves in a sheltered rock pool. We count 13 cormorants this morning. That's the most we've ever seen in one place and we take it as a good sign. They've withstood avian flu. That is a cause for rejoicing. They are after all our nearest neighbours.

The best mountain views in the world ?  : https://www.shaktihimalaya.com/kumaon.php

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Wet. No other word for it.

There are more storms on the way but the gale ebbs just a little after breakfast. This enables us to get kitted out in wet weather gear and head off for a walk. Why is it rain trousers are so difficult to put on ? Angus, repeatedly, gets both feet in the same leg. On the shore we almost stumble over a deer and her two fawns. They're standing like awestruck statues on the side of the wheat field watching the waves pounding and foaming against the rocks. I guess being awestruck is something all sentient creatures have in common. The wind is coming in from the sea and has masked our approach. They're surprised to see us. We, for our part, are surprised at getting within a couple of yards of them. For all of five seconds they stand motionless before bounding away. 

No lobster boats to be seen this morning. In fact the seas are empty - even the large supply vessels for the wind farms ( they're the size of a cruise ship ) have headed into harbour. Down on the little sand beach below the house huge rollers rise up and spray leaps twenty feet into the air. No wonder the deer were transfixed. To our surprise the cormorants are in their usual spot on the rocks. It will take more than  a gale to perturb these masters of the ocean. Three large geese are paddling on the lake in the potato field. They look comical.  I'm guessing the high winds have caused them to pause their journey south on our little peninsula. Better to overnight in a lake in a potato field than not overnight at all. The stranded geese aren't alone. The lake is shared with a collection of terns, skuas and fulmars. Probably a couple of hundred in total. All seem focused on hunting for worms in the waterlogged dreels.

We seem to have escaped the worst of the weather. Further north, on the other side of the bay, there's been severe flooding and the power lines have come down. Scotrail has stopped running. People have been evacuated. Who would ever have thought that climate change would make Scottish rain more intense ? Perhaps October is going to be our monsoon season ? In town students can be seen hurrying between lectures looking miserable. Overheated lecture rooms and damp clothes are a 'steaming'  rite of passage. 

The sound of the worlds largest living thing :https://www.sciencealert.com/haunting-sounds-made-by-worlds-largest-living-thing-recorded

Friday, October 20, 2023


Another ( late for them, early for me ) call with the super smart Los Angelenos. Gaza, Jim Jordan and the UK governments loss of two seats in by-elections comprise todays smorgasbord of world affairs.

Outside the wind is gusting at 100 km/h and the rain is powering down. The roads are clear ( the council prudently unblocked all the dead leaves from the drains after last weeks floods ) but venture out of the car and you're soaked. I take some pictures of the beach but clamber back into the safety of the Volvo after a minute of being outside. There isn't a soul to be seen. Even dog owners are staying close to home. It's that sort of eye stinging rain that manages to find any gap  in your water proof outer layers. A half centimetre of water has somehow made it into the bottom of my Wellingtons.

Time for some stodge. We stop off at the artisanal bakery for cinnamon rolls.

The artisanal bakery makes cinnamon rolls that are both large and have a consistency that appeals to student tastes. 'Heavy' might be one description, 'stodgy' an equally true alternative. In this weather they are delicious.

At the book store 'The Font' picks up a book of murder puzzles. 'Murdle' is apparently very popular although I've never heard of it.  It is the sort of diversion that comes into its own when it's simply too wild to go outside .

42 - the answer to everything : https://bigthink.com/starts-with-a-bang/42-answer-fundamental-questions/