Thursday, November 30, 2023


The old Sony CD/Radio that we bought in Avignon in 2004 has stopped working. The radio function still works perfectly but the  sliding door that opens to let you pop in a CD no longer slides. Replacement CD/Radio models exist but they tend towards the inner city 'Boom Box' look . Usually, we'd just get on Amazon and order a new one but this time we'll try to be environmentally conscious and search out a 'make do and mend' electrician to repair it. A quick Google search hints that finding an electrician willing to look at old appliances is going to be difficult. It will probably also be more expensive than buying a replacement.  

We're down by the Old Course at break of day. The hotels are suddenly full. It's winter graduation time. I have no idea why there's a winter graduation. In our day they only had summer ceremonies.  All the parking spaces in town are taken with large  expensive London registered cars or rental vehicles from Edinburgh airport. Parent transport. Although not as busy as the summer graduation there's enough incomers to fill the restaurants and enable the hotels to  raise their prices for a couple of days. The owner of a large hotel chain once told me there are only three places in the UK that can support labour intensive 5 star hotels throughout the year - London, Edinburgh and ( surprisingly ) St.Andrews. Golf and the parents of students are good reliable sources of revenue. 

Where the fresh water burn comes down to the shore a group of ducks are thoroughly enjoying themselves. A solitary young gull looks on wondering whether they've found anything good to eat in the grass that lines the stream.

As it gets close to seven the rising sun makes its presence known. The sky turns orange and then salmon pink. This morning light show is enjoyed by us and a dozen or so  early rising dog owners . Sunrise and sunset in this remote northern town are in their own ways quite remarkable. They bring a touch of Florence to Fife.

The golf club has put up a huge Christmas tree next to the flag poles. We are now entering the time of the year when the restaurants start offering seasonal menus.  So far we've not heard any Christmas music being played but give the stores another couple of days and the sound of  Good King Wenceslas will be accompanying us everywhere. This morning the golf club car park is full of white vans. Their usual parking spaces in town have been taken by an inrush of 'graduation' vehicles.

Back at The Last Wee House before Denmark the sea is working itself into a fury . A storm must be on its way in from Jutland. The news broadcast says that London may get a dusting of snow. When snow arrives down south  the BBC adopts a tone of imminent  Weathergeddon. Those of us  further North carry on and wonder what all the fuss is about.

We're buying more clothes than ever - but this doesn't apply to shoes :

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

High tech trews.


The Rangers have been busy carting sand up from the shoreline onto the dunes in an attempt to slow the erosion after the recent land scouring  combination of high tides and storms. Tyre marks crisscross the beach. 

A notice keeps us abreast of incomers  and departures.  

Looking across the golf courses the sky is patterned with strange linear clouds that stretch as far inland as the eye can see. Presumably this is a sign of a storm front coming in. A few golfers are out and about already -  a group of four and a twosome. They're probably cost effectively getting in a few holes before the course is officially open. The foursome are accompanied by two labradors who trot happily alongside their masters golf carts. 

The black sheep seem to have settled down after the recent dog harrying. One very content ram sits happily amongst his harem. All of them are lying on the grass enjoying the sunshine.

We go to the bookstore to pick up our reserved copy of the Booker Prize winning authors new tome. It is billed as being dystopian in a Celtic  ' She opened the door and the darkness crept silently inside' sort of way.  'The Font' is surprised to discover that the book has dispensed with punctuation and paragraphs. It is a solid block of text. 'This looks challenging' the initial reaction from the reader in chief.

Sleet is expected this evening. According to the weather forecast it will lsst forever. Angus heads to one of the golf shops for wet weather wear. The owner opens the door and ushers me in. He's wearing  a pair of tartan trousers and matching waistcoat. This Brigadoon look is clearly what visiting golfers expect local tradesmen to wear. I explain what I'm looking for. ' You've come tae the right place ' he says turning to a rail of Under Armour wet weather golf trousers. 'These use new technology that keeps the water out and the warmth in '.  ' Warmth ' is said  in that 'r' trilling way that marks out Scots from any other inhabitants of these sceptered isles. He carries on to tell me that ' Although they're supremely comfortable they look smart enough to be worn anywhere '.  Who ever uses the words 'supremely comfortable ?' There again who in this climate could possibly resist buying a pair of formal 'from the golf course to the dinner table ' rain repelling  trousers ? The man , by now waxing lyrical , goes on to point out a series of 'handy velcro tabs' . I'm not sure about the look of the velcro tabs nor am I sure what possible purpose they might serve but decide against voicing these  thoughts.  The magic words 'It's the Black Friday sale so I can do you a really good  deal if you buy two pairs '  clinches the deal. Tomorrow I shall venture onto the beach for our morning walk sporting a pair of hi tech  woven polyester trews. 'The Font' is of the opinion that the words 'velcro tabs' and 'style icon' rarely appear in the same sentence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Day release.

It's cold. Not the usual mundane cold but the sort that pummels your lungs when you breath in. This morning we head along the beach wrapped up in more layers than you would think possible. Angus is wearing a bobble hat on which is balanced a  baseball cap he's found on the back seat of the car. 'The Font' is wearing a coat with a fur lined hood. This look is practical but makes conversation difficult in a ' What did you say ' way.

The frost that carpeted the sand when we were here yesterday has gone but the sea has that 'I'm thinking of turning into ice' look. Not to be outdone the air has that 'you can see for ever'  translucence that only air in the North has.

After thirty minutes of this bracing weather we head off to the small cafe by the town kirk. Angus is in need of something restorative  to combat the cold. A slice of millionaires shortbread will do the trick. 'The Font' wonders how  Angus manages to  retain the taste buds  of an eight year old. We both roar with laughter which causes the students queueing up for coffee to look at us concernedly. Late teens assume anyone over the age of forty has had a humourectomy. Perhaps , looking at the way we're dressed, they think we're on day release into the community. This makes us laugh all the more.

Christmas seems to have grabbed the collective psyche. Wreaths are appearing on doors, garlands wrap around shop windows and the trendy restaurant suddenly sports a nine foot tree in the lobby. Angus quietly wonders if the restaurants  juxtaposition of the tree , the small lobby and alcohol fueled ' term is over'  revelers will prove to be an accident free combination.

It's revision week ahead of next weeks exams. Panic has now struck the student body. The streets, usually full of bar hopping sophomores,  are deserted. In the restaurant three tables are taken. We have one of them, the two others are taken by Californian couples who look as though they've dressed for the Ventura summer . It is the style over practicality look. Will they make it back to their hotels  without suffering from hypothermia ? I'm guessing the Californians are here because getting tee off times in late November is a synch.

On our way out of the restaurant the Christmas street lights catch a flock of seagulls who wheel around in the night sky like sparkling stars.  We wander along the street thankful for living in such a 'dull' and well ordered corner of the world.

This mornings car radio music :

Monday, November 27, 2023

Snow on the way.

We have the beach to ourselves. It's close to freezing this morning and a band of frost dusts the shore . Snow is forecast for later in the week . Something about the light reflecting off the frost  makes this mornings sunrise  spectacular. As we head back to the car we meet Archie the arthritic labrador and the lady with the Pomeranian. We've promised Archies owner the dog ramp. The old fellow is now finding getting up into the back of her Audi to be 'problematic'. This cold weather isn't helping his arthritis.

To the farm shop. We buy celery and tomatoes for tonights Bolognaise sauce. We are moving - rapidly - towards a deep winter diet of comfort food. Pasta and pecorino figure prominently.

The town has a number of good restaurants and one really good restaurant. 'The Font' takes in the expensive Japanese knives to be sharpened by the really good restaurants executive chef. He is the only person within miles to have the patience  and the skills needed. The knives and the wooden knife block that holds them  are carried from the car to the restaurant door carefully wrapped up in a freezer bag. 'The Font' thinks that carrying a variety of sharp knives in public is probably some sort of public order offence.

Napoleon starts at the cinema. The Hunger Games and a movie that has  something to do with super heroes are also being shown. These appeal to a younger cinema going demographic. We're not sure what to expect.  Purists ( of which this small university town has many - particularly in the French history and language departments  ) say that the director would have made a better job if he'd read a book about Napoleon  before he started filming. If its historical accuracy you want then this isn't for you. It's more a Netflix style 'based on real events' type production. The movie is full of action, has lots of packed battle scenes and truly execrable dialogue.  Joaquin Phoenix has put on weight. It is definitely the sort of thing you want to see on a long, cold Scottish winters evening. On our way back to the car we discover that aa new 'upmarket' cocktail bar has opened up in what used to be the Scandinavian restaurant. Scandinavian cuisine was  tad too exotic for local tastes and it closed fairly quickly. Before that it was the Salvation Army hall.  Moralists will have a field day with that juxtaposition. A fancy cocktail bar is almost certain to be a roaring success with townsfolk and students.

Oddest ( and very slow loading ) e-mail link of the day. What mailing list must we have signed up for ? The pineapples are pricey  :

Everything in nature sleeps :

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Simple enjoyment.


St.Andrews Day weekend. The town looking particularly spick and span. The old buildings are illuminated and all the windows glow with light. After last months rain the weather is on its best behaviour - the skies almost cloudless and the air still. We see  shooting stars - one of which falls in the sea in front of us. Neither of us have ever seen such a thing.

Tonight the fountain in the town centre is illuminated. This could have been a tacky gesture but turns out to be well done. The thistles a cheerful touch.

The crest of the Saint on the town hall facade is also lit up - but in a more low key way. 

Down by the town gate there is a Ceilidh. A fiddle band plays and the University choir sing Taylor Swift songs. They are remarkably good although our knowledge of Taylor Swift songs is limited. There is dancing - some coordinated - some less so.  A barber shop octet sings 'The Rowan Tree' and everyone joins in.

There are pipers....

and there are torches.....

..... and a long, long  procession that stretches from the centre of town  down to the shore. The route pilgrims used to take when they came to visit the shrine. In those days people would wash off the grime of the journey in the sea before heading off to make penance in the cathedral. You would need to be exceptionally devout to try that on a cold night like this although some of the student alpha males will try to impress their partners by doing just that.

To end it all there is a wonderful fireworks display that lights up the sky. Many firework displays disappoint with penny pinching brevity. This one doesn't. It's bright and loud and skilful and lasts a full twenty minutes. It ends in a riot of Scottish blue and white.

I guess if you're going to celebrate St.Andrews Day then this is the place to do it. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that in the twenty first century such unpretentious enjoyments not only survive but  thrive. In its simplicity it was perfect. We had great fun and head back to the car as a band strikes up with this old tune :  What better song could there be to end the celebrations?

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Heart pounding cornering.


The dishwasher in the new 'smart' kitchen requires a PhD in electrical engineering to get it started.  In the good old days you opened a dishwasher, loaded it up, decided what cycle you wanted and then pressed a button. Now you have to consult an ap which provides a long  list of  eco friendly options regulating time and temperature. 

Having finally got the dishwashers approval to start  a 45 minute low temperature cycle we head off on our start of day walk. It's still dark. Barely four weeks to the winter solstice and the shortest day. The sun only now starting to poke its head over the horizon. The street lights  along the harbour quayside are still burning away. As we're turning back towards home a man in a 10 year old Range Rover comes hurtling through the sea gate at a speed that requires him to turn the wheel and brake sharply to avoid the waters edge. For a moment we wonder if he'll go sailing into the harbour.  He won't try that again.  The handling of old Range Rovers is not conducive to high speed right angled turns.

In town the baker tries to tempt passers by to purchase a variety of brown pastries. This is not France.

A tray of particularly unexciting buns has pride of place in the centre of the display. We assume these are made fresh every morning as there's always an identical tray in the window. They seem to be cream filled and caramel iced . Even for Angus it's too early to be tempted by a sugar rush like this.

Tonight is the night of the towns annual St Andrews day celebrations. There will be a firework display and a torch light procession from the auld kirk down to the sea. Pipers will be out in force. This morning the under fourteen pipe class are practising 'Scotland the Brave'  in the church hall . They play the pipes with unbridled enthusiasm .

Todays car radio music :

Friday, November 24, 2023

Shaping lives.

There's a raw wind blowing from the north. The sort of day when gloves are needed.  As we head out into the courtyard three deer look up from their grazing. Unsure what to make of us they opt for caution and bound off at high speed towards the beach. The local deer population seems to have settled into two groups of three and one larger group of seven. Sometimes the herds wander through the fields  separately, at others they appear en masse. We're guessing the two groups of three are mothers with this years offspring. The local farmers ignore them so , for all intents and purposes, they can pass their lives on our little North Sea peninsula wary but unthreatened. 

Despite the cold it's going to be a fine day. Frost is forecast inland but here on the coast we'll be spared.

A quick detour to the bookstore. We're the first customers of the day. There's something special about having a bookstore to yourself. Browsing heaven. 

At lunchtime we go to the daily concert in the arts centre. Six young ladies taking an MA in music are performing.  A group of seven year olds have been brought along from the local primary school to listen. They've been told to be on their best behaviour. We know this because their teacher stands in front of the stage before the concert starts and reminds them in no uncertain terms that ' This is all about trust. You promised me you'd behave. If you can't be trusted we won't do this again'. Amazingly, this seems to work and they sit quietly like angels.  At the end of the concert the seven year olds applaud enthusiastically. They are instructed to shake hands with the performers - which they do. One young girl , when asked if she'd enjoyed it,  says ' That was absolutely lovely '. A little reminder of the importance of primary school teachers in shaping lives. To our delight the performance is of a professional standard and at thirty five minutes in length timed just right for the audience.

A new and over the top hotel in London. Would you stay here ? :

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thick and fast.

A short start of day call with the super smart Los Angelenos. Most of them have headed off to Palm Springs for the weekend but two have been delegated to stay close to home over Thanksgiving. Seems the world is just too volatile to leave the office completely unattended. This morning we deal with a bomb blast in Canada, a not so unexpected result in the Dutch elections and the politics behind the delay in implementing the Gaza ceasefire .

The dustmen out and about as we head back from the beach. They are dealing with a large pile of cardboard boxes outside the country clothing emporium. It would be fair to say that they don't appreciate this additional work. We leave them muttering heavily accented deprecations.  The weather forecast says a cold snap is headed north. By this time tomorrow there may be snow on the hills on the other side of the bay. 

A touch of Scottish humour hanging on the walls of the cafe by the church.

It's a fancy cafe. A bacon roll goes for £5.50. In the place by the harbour it's £2.20. In the ( subsidized ) Student Union - I'm told - they are still on sale for £1 with a cup of coffee thrown in. Angus, despite 'The Fonts' disapproval , orders a piece of Millionaires shortbread.

Next to us a young couple sharing avocado toast. He devours the eggs, she mashes a slice of avocado. The tables are very close together so we  can't help but hear snippets of their conversation. She's from England. He's from Reno. He's suggesting she doesn't return home to Suffolk for Christmas but fly to the States and spend the festive season with him and his family. She isn't at all sure her parents will appreciate that. " It may be a bit sudden. They're expecting me ". We leave as he's countering with ' My folks are so cool. You'll just love them '. Poor girl. Not only does she have to contend with end of term exams but she also has to deal with a love stricken beau. Life for a late teen comes thick and fast. 

Christmas mania now running amok. The delicatessen camouflaged by a mass of seasonal foliage. A milk churn completes the rustic tableau. When was the last time you saw a milk churn ?

And here, for Thanksgiving, is the ultimate to tapping 17th century Pilgrim song. Not every day you see the word 'hobgoblin' :


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Fashionably late.

Tuesday night in town is quiet. We 'attend' ( if that's the right word ) an online memorial service from the University of Glasgow ( very dignified, the choirs singing beautiful, but the speakers words garbled and made unintelligible by the poor audio feed ). Afterwards we decide , on the spur of the moment, to go out for dinner. Farewells are best accompanied by a glass, or two, of wine. We make a booking for eight. We leave at nine thirty. While we're there the restaurant serves a grand total of half a dozen or so customers. As we're waiting for our coats it suddenly fills up with hordes of young things. The waiter informs us that the 'students' like to dine late. The last bookings are for ten. 'That means ten thirty ' he adds with what might have been a grimace.

Blowy this morning. The sea pounding on the shore and shrouding the beach in clouds of spray. We manage twenty minutes along the sand before the biting wind makes us retreat twenty minutes back.

The tiny sanderlings seem quite oblivious to the elements. They scurry , heads down, along the tideline. Like premier league soccer players they skip artfully in and out of the waves. Sanderlings are, without doubt ,  the clowns of the bird world.

In town the sun is up and the morning dew disappearing.

'The Font' has ordered something from Lithuania. The Lithuanian Post Office has sent us an e-mail instructing us how to track it. I click on the 'always translate English' key but nothing happens. Entering the tracking number also does nothing. On my third attempt it takes me to a link called 'ChatGPTLithuaniaPost' which gives me a potted history of postal services in Lithuania. I'm hoping that the package will arrive with our local postman. One of the interesting after effects of Brexit is that German companies unfailingly manage to arrange door to door deliveries in forty eight hours. They seem to understand how to tick all the right boxes for customs clearance. Shipments from anywhere else are a lottery  ( France is bad, Italy indescribably so ) and often require paying 'excise' duty.

There are road works at the 'T' junction by the bus station. Early rising university staff join with early rising shop keepers to cause a traffic jam. You know you live in a quiet place when a traffic jam becomes 'the ' topic of conversation.

Wednesday morning reading :

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


7:30 AM. After a cloudless night the day starts calm and mild.  This far North it's getting close to peak winter and the sun is only now peeping above the horizon.  It will set again in eight hours time. The student golf club members were out cleaning the beach yesterday. They filled 57 sacks with plastic. This morning the sand is pristine. 

Outside the Italian cafe a lady with a shaggy hound is waiting for her Americano. She's deep in conversation with a man walking an overweight Westie. The shaggy hound is keen to get onto the beach and emits a single bark every minute or so to remind her that she needs to get a move on. This could be interpreted as well mannered impatience. The Italian cafe has a sign in the window saying 'Dogs welcome'. This is good for business in a town that must have the highest dog/human ratio of anywhere on earth.

The garden centre has taken delivery of a life size  bronze Stag. By Christmas this will doubtless be taking pride of place in some lucky individuals garden. There's no accounting for taste. Perhaps it would look better with lights strung along the antlers ?  Angus notes that small , three foot, Christmas trees  are priced at a scandalous  £39.95. They used to be a pound a foot. 

No news of the injured sheep. A replacement sign has appeared by the gate from the car park that leads to their  enclosure.

Monday, November 20, 2023



Two weeks to the start of exams. Four weeks until the end of term. Conversations in the coffee shops now interspersed with words like 'revision' and 'reading list'. In the cafe by the chapel three young headphone wearing  women are staring, unblinking and unsmiling, at the screens on their laptops. Such is their immersion in whatever they're reading that they don't notice us arrive and they don't notice us leave. Give it another week and the panic levels will be higher.

The large luxury hotel a mile from 'The Last Wee House before Denmark ' is getting busy. Last week it had a 15% occupancy rate. This week it's going to be 70% +. The Thanksgiving golfing crowd are on their way.  As we drive past the windows are aglow, the flags at the gate house are floodlit and the car park, usually deserted in mid-November, is filling up with large, golf bag accommodative, rental cars.

In town there is a dog show for university staff. We arrive to see the 'Beautiful Puppy ' competition.

I think there are three entrants. 'The Font' thinks there are four.  A gentleman in a bobble hat talks to the dogs. He is presumably the judge. After some conferring first, second and third place winners are announced by a lady with what I would call a 'Megaphone' but which 'The Font' rather charmingly refers to as a 'Bull Horn '. The fourth entrant seems to have been an affable but ageing black labrador. He's been entered into the senior dog competition but thinks he should be a participant in every category. No one wants to spoil his fun. Other dogs stand around getting wet and wonder what's going on.

In the rather grand university reception room a Christmas market has been set up. It's home to stalls selling local products. Portraits of unsmiling Victorian academics look down on this festive commercialism. I have a feeling the academics ghosts  don't approve.

Tea towels with Puffins or stylised ruined cathedral landscapes are very popular.

 To show willingness we buy a stylised cathedral tea towel . 

A place we've never been to but which looks like fun: