Monday, July 22, 2024

Cheerful shoes.

The left over sunflowers in the supermarket lobby have a Monday morning look to them. After a hectic Sunday this is how many American political journalists must be feeling today. On the radio a woman from Berkeley says, somewhat prosaically, yesterdays events were ' expected but still a shock'. 

A display of highly polished golf shoes on a window ledge outside the  bar by the town fountain. The plastic heather is a 'cheerful' touch.

The Christmas store is having its window replaced. A sign tells us that it's open for business as usual. Quite what is usual about selling Christmas decorations in July is left unexplained.  Next door one of the redundant mobile phone stores remains unlet. There was a time when finding commercial premises in town was as rare as finding hens teeth.  Now, by my count,  there are seven vacant shops. The switch to online retailing is changing buying patterns and shop leases attract much less interest. 

The demand for injection moulded souvenirs remains robust. Made in Shenzen, shipped to Scotland and then sold and  carried onwards to a permanent home in Madrid or Monterey. Angus can't tell whether the regimental pipers in the window of this shop have different tartans . They're certainly unlike any tartan you'd see  in Scotland.

The young seagulls in their tell tale brown and white feathers can be seen parading around town. They fly down from their nests on the chimney stacks, don't have the strength to fly back up and then get lost. The first signs telling drivers to slowdown to avoid fledgling gulls have started to appear. 

It was Angus' birthday yesterday. This morning a rather grand present arrives. A box of chocolates from the House of Lords. Will they be suitably grand ? We shall soon find out.

Some calmness on the radio this morning :

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Faith sees best in the dark.

Overnight a storm. The rain throws itself against the roof with a ferocity of purpose you'd expect in February but not July. On the evening news the radio commentator describes the weather at the British Open golf tournament as 'dire'. That pretty much sums it up. Thankfully, this morning the storm has passed and we wake to blue ( or at least bluish ) skies and a warm sun that's already well above the horizon. It's going to be a glorious day.

Hundreds of crows sitting on the stone walls that line the track that runs from the house to the shore. Being 'canny' birds the crows take off as we head towards them. They circle around and then when we've passed by settle down again. They roost like this every evening from six onwards. During the day they scoot off to glean the barley fields and sunbathe on the roof of the potato sheds.  From their numbers I'd reckon the crows ( together with the local sparrows, swallows, larks and starlings ) are having a bumper year.

A bishop on the morning 'thought for the day' tells us that one of Joe Bidens favourite lines is ' Faith sees best in the dark'. The bishop then goes on to tells us that he's gently suggested to his 80 something mother that , after the latest 'misjudgement' when parking her car, she give up driving.  After much discussion the family have finally taken the keys away and 'lost' them. We are left to ponder if this message is spiritual or has a more political undercurrent. 

To the cheesemongers for some smoked salmon. This is the morning when it's delivered from the smoke house. The cheesemongers also has Brie de Melun which is something we've not seen since the market in France.

July is the time of year when the university halls of residence, empty out of term, become home to European language schools. We wonder how much you would need to be paid to shepherd European teenagers around over the summer. A posse  of Italian fifteen year olds , and their teachers, demonstrate how not to cross the road. The zebra crossing is ignored in favour of a four way junction. Some charge across the road, others - in a display of teenage independence - head off at right angles.

The busker 'busks' alone. Perhaps a coach load or two of tourists will show up soon ? We think the busker may be Polish or Slovak. He has a heavily accented repertoire that hints at a Slavic rather than a Scots upbringing. The tunes are jolly but unrecognizable.

The seagulls are getting to that stage when they make it clear that this is their turf. Two, arguing over a piece of Domino pizza crust,  hiss at us and make it quite clear they are not going to share their culinary good fortune with anyone.

This mornings music listened to on the car radio :

A substack reminder why we maintain a subscription to this magazine :

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Great reading and a plastic bird scarer.

Friends heading off to San Francisco. Heathrow we are told is working well after yesterdays IT outage. Every quarter of an hour one or other of us gets a text saying the airport is crowded. Yesterday was supposed to be the busiest day of the year with families celebrating the start of the school holidays by flying off to sunnier climes. With so many cancellations it looks like today is going to be a travel nightmare on steroids.

The farmers wife has given up on cleaning the farmhouse windows. There's a swallows nest in the corner of every one. Their presence is unmistakable.

The outdoor coffee 'venue' that has opened up on the site of the old Greyfriars monastery is doing a roaring trade. They have a plastic sparrow hawk to scare the gulls away from their clients bacon rolls. This seems to work although we see a particularly ferocious gull settling on the far wall in readiness for a smash and grab raid on an unsuspecting tourist.

The bakers doing a brisk trade in what the French would call 'religeuse' but are here referred to , more prosaically, as coffee buns.

Frog cakes continue to be best sellers.

A student bike upended on the pavement. Looking at the rust that's eaten its way through the frame I'm assuming its been left out for the dustmen.

This was probably one of the best books I've read in years. Although we spent much time in Germany in the late 70's I'd never heard of women artists like  Gunta Stolzl who ran the Bauhaus weaving mill ( ) or Marianne Brandt ( who posthumously got the highest price ever for a small Bauhaus object - a 1927 metal teapot - that went for $361,000 at Sothebys ). The last chapters brilliantly - and poignantly - describe how a hyper polarized society blundered with eyes wide open on its fateful path . 

Friday, July 19, 2024

7% higher this year.

An article in the paper says that  United Airlines will be carrying nearly 800,000 passengers across the Atlantic to Europe in July  alone. 1st and Business Class seats are 'hard to find'. Seems that last year was a 'back to normal ' schedule after Covid. This year demand is 7% higher.

Temperatures in the mid-20's again. This is the cue for the town dogs to have their summer buzz cut. These two have that 'home'  trimmed look.

Friday morning. We're up early to buy tomatoes from the farm shop.

Still no fresh peas but there are beans.

Friday mornings at the fishmongers are always busy but there's no queues ...yet.

Today there's halibut, salmon tail and sustainable lemon sole which has just arrived from Peterhead . It's unpacked and deboned for us.

The fishmonger also sells Panko breadcrumbs which surprises us.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Shopping around.

An unusual sight as we wait outside the Italian coffee shop. A dozen boy scouts from Amarillo walking down to the cathedral . They're all wearing ten gallon hats . The boy scouts have that seriousness of purpose that only early teens can muster. A small furry dog being taken for a walk by its mistress sees this phalanx of hats moving towards it and segues into defence mode. The boy scouts quickly - and sensibly - move away from it.

A sailing ship out in the bay. Not so long ago this would have been a common sight. Now the early morning joggers stop to photograph it.

To the book store to pick up a new biography of Zhou Enlai. 

There is a book ' Collectible Golf balls' in the book store window. Who knew this was a thing ? The world is indeed a strange and wonderful place.     

The wine cellar is running low. Angus has ordered some light Italian Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo as summer tippling. Amazingly it got to 25 degrees here yesterday so we were able to have dinner outside. We  are trying a new St Joseph recommended by the wine merchant but sticking with a Crozes that we know. Wine is 30% dearer than in France but careful shopping around can mitigate the pain.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Murder rates.

The radio playing 'God Bless the Prince of Wales' before the seven am news broadcast. I didn't know they still did this . A charming, if archaic. constitutional touch. It's a song that's only trotted out , briefly , once a year : I wonder how many listeners know what it is .

Over breakfast 'The Font' reads an article about two British men found dead in a burnt out rental car in Malmo. The presumption - although it isn't stated -  is they were either drug or arms dealers. We learn that the gun murder rate in Stockholm is now 30x that of London on a per capita basis. Svenska Dagbladet goes on to inform us that Sweden now has Europes 2nd highest gun crime death rate after Albania.

For us a day with nothing to do. No deliveries, no visitors. 

The garden in a local castle  is open to the public. In a gap in the rain we head off to see how the flower beds are holding up under  the cold and unusually wet weather.

The gardeners are growing gooseberries in a huge fruit cage. Angus thinks they are  bitter things that no amount of sugar can sweeten. It goes without saying 'The Font' likes them. 'The Font' also adores Lingonberries which can best be described as tasting like Camay. Thankfully, Lingonberries don't seem to grow in the UK and remain pretty much a Swedish delicacy.

On our way home the clouds become heavier. The horizon turns dark grey then black. We opt to go to the 5 star hotel down the road for a coffee. The outside patio, usually teaming with visiting golfers, is empty. This is not altogether surprising. Within minutes the rain arrives.

The hotel was originally owned by a company from Braselton, Georgia. They've now moved on and sold the property to a French firm. The hotel has an atrium the size of Kansas. Half of it is used to serve breakfast. The other half sits forlorn and empty bearing testimony to an overly optimistic forecast for tourism that failed to materialise.  Heating an atrium like this in a Scottish winter costs more than the GDP of many small African states. The Atlanta based architects didn't seem to understand the local climate.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Whoopin' and hollerin'.


A cloudy Tuesday morning. There's some sea fog lingering in the coves. We spot a woman flat on her back on the beach. What can she be doing ? Certainly not sunbathing. We stop to see if we should go and check but she's breathing and listening to music on her ear pods so we can relax. Probably just a little restorative meditation after a dip in the North Sea.

Peak golfer time. The first tee of the Old Course already busy. It's a bubbly crowd this morning . No such thing as jet lag here. A foursome from Wichita waiting to tee off greet a group from Alexandria on the back stretch. There is much whoopin' and hollerin'. For some the excitement of playing the Old Course can't be bottled up. The caddies shuffle their feet. They've seen it all before.

Photos are being taken. Stewards are reminding some of the wannabe players that the dress code requires that shorts must reach the knee. Some of the golfers are here two hours before their allocated time. They soak in the atmosphere and talk to other groups of golfers as if they're long lost friends. Todays non-golfing topic of conversation is JD Vance. Scots golfers tend to wear blue or black. Visiting golfers  opt for more strident colours.

The golf course may have become the 51st state but the rest of the town has been taken over by Chinese tourists.

Last week the town was full of Italians. The week before it was inundated with Spanish. Now it's the Chinese. What must they think of a small quiet Scottish town with a beach, a golf course, some ruins and not much else ? In an hour they'll be back on their coach and heading off to the Highlands for lunch. In a town of 16,000 people ( many of whom are on holiday ) the ebb and flow of tourists is always a point of interest. This morning a lady tour guide is singing the Skye Boat song in Mandarin to her charges. This is something you don't hear often.

Monday, July 15, 2024

The temperature rising.

The young starlings join us on our start of day walk across the golf course.  It's supposed to get to 21 degrees today which - for these parts - is hot.

We're heading into peak wedding time. Graduates are allowed to marry in chapel. Many do. This mornings group have booked a dauntingly early slot.

The area under the chapel arches has been set up so that guests can have a post ceremony Bucks Fizz or glass of whisky. Long tables covered with starched white table cloths line the back wall.  I've not seen alcohol served in the arcade before and am in two minds as to whether it's a good idea. It works when its dry but would be a nightmare in heavy rain or wind. Everyone seems happy enough although John Knox must be turning in his grave.  Passing Italian tourists wonder whether the bar is open to all. A group of cheeky teenage summer schoolers line up for a glass of champagne but are 'discovered' by a counsellor and sent packing. 'Nice try guys'.

Some of the kilts are worn indecorously above mid-knee. Possibly a sign that these are Stockbridge lawyers venturing on a rare journey into the wilderness north of the Forth. The ladies are very keen on floral prints.

The cinema showing Fly me to the Moon which 'The Font' thinks may have had rave ( or at least mildly positive )  reviews.

A new hotel in Rome :

A Glasgow bar the day England plays Spain in the soccer final :

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Overnight change.

One of those days when you wake up to find the world has changed. Last nights shooting in Pennsylvania came too late for the European papers. This morning the radio and television broadcasters desperately trying to find background on Thomas Crooks and cool heads to make sense of what's happened. An angry American Senator on the radio blames the Secret Services incompetence and says this 'Communist coup' guarantees a GOP victory. The stridency of his comments make it clear this is no ordinary Sunday morning. 'The Font' observes that we were in DC when Reagan was shot outside the Hilton. The super smart Los Angelinos are on the phone asking what the consequences will be. The answer to that is simple : unexpected ones .

We pop into the town church. Plans have been drawn up to rearrange the interior.

The altar is to be relocated so that the kitchen and coffee areas - currently squeezed in behind it -  can be enlarged.

Some of the side chapels are to be converted into loos. All of this sounds crass but on reflection how else do you keep a structure rooted in the12th century open in a secular age ? The installation of loos may also say something about the age of the congregation.

On our way out we see that the flags on either side of the war memorial are encased in perspex surrounds. Does this stop them fading or is it a security measure to stop them from being stolen ?

The 1950's era Festival of Britain picture is put up. The frame is the right size and shape but the colour is wrong. What should be a cheerful, if muted, composition is overpowered by it. It looks flat if not funereal. The easiest thing would be to have it reframed but I'd prefer the environmentally better option of having the frame re-lacquered in a different colour. This will undoubtedly prove to be difficult.

Gull nesting time again. A particularly noisy fellow is celebrating the joys of fatherhood from the top of one of the old houses round the corner.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Clear plastic ponchos.

The weather remains 'changeable'. Wet in the morning, sunny in the afternoon and wet again after dinner. Golfers who have been to Scotland before have brought rain wear. Those who haven't brave the elements in shorts and tee shirts supplemented by those flimsy clear plastic ponchos that are the hallmark of the tourist. When the sun comes out and the humidity rises see through ponchos turn into miniature hot houses.

As we set off down the track towards the seashore  a Fisheries Patrol Vessel heads into the bay. Does their arrival signal a storm out in the North Sea ?

The marquees are going up for the womens golf championship. Seen from our perspective on the beach it can be said that the marquees are huge. Somewhere along the line golf has become a BIG thing. 

The fancy ladies fashion store displaying their latest fashions. We agree that there is something of the 1950's in this mornings look. 

I'm not going to say it's quiet but ducks and herons our only companions down by the harbour. You draw your own conclusions.

We drive across to pick up two pictures from the auction house in Glasgow. We put in extremely cheeky on-line bids and to our surprise got what we wanted. The auction house is having a sale of historic biscuit tins. This is such an unusual topic for a sale that we stop and examine them. Some collections go beyond the merely unusual into the realms of the downright 'odd'. 

The pictures are rather larger than we remembered. They just, with some careful arranging, fit into the back of the car. We stop off at a Starbucks in an industrial waste land between the police station and the Ibrox football stadium for a restorative espresso. This turns out to be one of those Scottish Starbucks that doesn't see much demand for espressos. 

Would you want to stay here ? A Hamburg air raid shelter transformed into a hotel :