Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A quick trip.

The weather is beautiful. We make a spur of the moment decision to head down to Edinburgh for a couple of nights. It's that  pre-Valentines Day  time of year when  'impossible to get into'  restaurants  have tables and hotel prices are 'reasonable'. Tomorrow is the last day for this exhibition :https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibition/turner-january

On the town notice board a reaction to the news that Justin Timberlake and Tiger Woods plan to buy the Picture House and turn it into a sports bar. At least the NIMBYism here rhymes.

The baker seems to have been inspired by the sunshine.

A Scottie makes a re-appearance in the butchers.

We should be back on Thursday.

The world will run out of construction grade sand by 2050 :https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969722029746

And I thought opioids were a concern :https://www.cato.org/commentary/these-new-synthetic-opioids-could-make-fentanyl-crisis-look-good-old-days

Artistic license

Three students walk onto the beach and head slowly to the waters edge. Two of them are wearing those long thermal coats. They undress and run into the sea. ' Won't their clothes get wet ?' I ask 'The Font'. " Only if the tide comes in " comes the reply. 

We're up early this morning. The three Jack Russells have had a run in with a fox. The eldest terrier found it and the other two piled in. The fox did not take well to being backed into a corner. Middle sister has a bite over her eye and 'Puppy' has been bitten on the leg. The sound of this five thirty am altercation was 'theatrical' in its intensity. The Jack Russells will be patients #1 and #2 when the vets opens at eight thirty . The eldest dog and the fox escaped harm. 

The sheep seem to be enjoying life without the ram.

We have the Italian coffee shop to ourselves apart from a PhD student wearing headphones and immersed in whatever's on his laptop. Give it an hour and the street will be thronged with students but for now all is peaceful. 

The lights are on in the old newsagents. Presumably they are packing up and inventorying what remains of their stock. Round the corner SuperDry has a sign in their window saying they'll be closing. There must be half a dozen shops in town that are now vacant. It seems that SuperDry is the latest retailer to fall foul of the shift to online clothes shopping. 

In the window of Starbucks a display of St.Andrews mugs. The mug looks as if it's been designed by someone who's never been here.  The cathedral , castle , university and golf course  have been overlooked . Instead the design features a few generic boats, the block of flats down by the harbour and a large fortified hilltop building. We aren't sure what this hilltop structure is but think it might be an artistic rendering of  one of the town gates - possibly the small medieval gate down on the quayside by the public lavatories. An unusual choice. The design , it must be said, is a triumph of artistic license.

Playing on the radio as we drive back home. Is it still the first song taught in primary school ? :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7-aEKVUSvE

'Well I never ' of the day :https://www.frontiersin.org/news/2024/01/26/writing-by-hand-increase-brain-connectivity-typing

At the British Museum :https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/legion-life-roman-army

Monday, January 29, 2024

Good mannered optimism.

Sun or rain ? The weather can't seem to make up its mind. At least it's mild. Yesterday, in the highlands, a UK high of 19.6 degrees was recorded in the  village of  Kinlochewe. That's more than unusual for the north of Scotland in January. In fact it's rare enough in June let alone January .

A few surf boarders in the water by the pier. The sea is calm this morning so it will be a day for paddling rather than riding the waves. A boxer dog stands on the sand and barks at them as if to say ' Don't you know you'll get wet ?'

The retailers in town are now turning their attention to Valentines Day. Burns Night posters are being taken down and admonitions to ' Treat the one you love' are being put up. The so so hotel on the sea front is offering a variety of ' magical cocktails to celebrate the wonderful day'. It's not as if the students need much prompting to celebrate.

We stop off in town for 'The Font' to pop into Tesco's for some peppermint tea. The cheerful Syrian gentleman is sitting cross legged  on the pavement outside with a paper coffee cup in front of him. Every time anyone stops to drop off some small change he smiles and says thank you. Children being taken to school by their mothers are his most successful demographic. He then pours the money out of the cup and puts it in his pocket.  There is a lady outside the candle store on the other side of the road  (possibly his sister ) and another gentleman ( his father ?) with a pitch outside the other supermarket at the other end of the street. All are unfailingly polite and seem oblivious to the fact that the town has become largely cash free. They retain a good mannered optimism.  I can't remember the last time I saw, let alone used, coins. 

Every home should have one :https://miko.ai/products/miko-mini

Not sure what this tells us :https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-68071695

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Eight feet tall.


Friday night was the village Burns night. A good natured affair with accordion and fiddle music washed down with copious quantities of Gods amber nectar. The remains of the two 'mundane' cases of  Pinot Grigio that Angus ordered last summer were well received by the non-whisky drinkers.  The village has two prime  demographics - kilt wearing Scots farmers  and academic incomers . Conversations can range from the market price of  cabbage to advances in keyhole surgery . There is another Angus there , a tractor driver come odd job man, but he spells his name Aonghas. How Scottish is that ! He's from New Zealand. This year the planned expansion of the caravan park is the topic of conservation. The owners want to double it in size. It seems that caravans are exempt from the strict green belt zoning laws. There is to be a public meeting which, on the basis of the dram fueled opinions I heard, should be a lively event. The local councillors response to the proposals is said to be ' useless'. I quietly wonder who in their right mind would ever be a local councillor. A thankless task.

Saturday night was a grander, duller, affair. An academic event. Everyone was on their best behaviour. No raucous belly laughs here. Half of the kilts had that pristine look that said they came out once a year for special occasions. A tall and enthusiastic American gentleman from South Carolina wore a Tam O'Shanter with two large pheasant feathers sticking out of it at jaunty angles. The distance from the  tips of his feathers to the soles of his feet must have been all of eight feet. This was a sight that was, in many ways, remarkable. He forecast that the former President will win 60% of the vote in his states primary. A lady from the Persian studies department tells me that AI is having a huge impact on the jobs market for language graduates. Why hire a translator when you can have documents scanned and translated online ?

This morning the town full of Japanese teenagers. We're in peak 'open day' season for prospective students. Seems Japanese kids take their exams in March and want to know whether they've been accepted asap afterwards. Do they arrive independently from Japan or is there an educational company that arranges these trips ? Where do they stay and why are they up so early ? The boys all take photos and act as if they've known each other forever. The girls maintain an aloof distance from them .

Plenty of parking spaces this morning. The students are recovering from last nights excesses .

We have the small Italian cafe to ourselves.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Installation art.


The Burns Night festivities ended late but this hasn't deterred 'Puppy' who is up early and waiting for us in the courtyard. Her two sisters are presumably curled up by the AGA in the farmhouse kitchen. 'Puppy' leads us along the track that leads to the sea where we watch the cormorants drying their wings on the jagged rocks. Puppy then disappears in search of more adventure than we can provide.

A beautiful, mild morning . 

In a densely populated country how surprising it is to be able to walk for an hour on the sand and only see three other people.

Overnight, some students have been partying in the dunes by the bird sanctuary. They've gone and left behind a driftwood  'boat'. It's a rather fine piece of installation art. We are suitably  impressed.

Work at the Royal and Ancient ( which has been underway and disturbing traffic ever since we arrived ) now seems to be approaching completion. A large crane is positioned on the road that runs onto the beach. The crane isn't actually doing anything but its presence hints that something big is about to happen. I'm guessing that the club house may be operational by Easter. 'The Font' is less hopeful and points out that the blue Portacabins have a semi-permanent look that says they'll be around for some time . Underground changing facilities have been excavated into the bedrock ( at exorbitant expense )  and are likely to require a lengthy fit out.

So starts a beautiful Saturday morning in a small North Sea town where a large portion of the population are nursing Burns Night hangovers.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Pushing her luck.


The day of the village Burns supper. The farmers wife is up early to collect the Haggis(es) from the butchers. The foxes are in mating season and two particularly amorous ones, noisily hard at work by the potting shed,  have driven the Jack Russells insane with their antics.  'Puppy' arrives at the front door in the hope of getting an oat cake. 'Puppy' has a look that indicates she knows she's pushing her luck. 

A magazine cover in the supermarket sums up what everyone in the village thinks about having Jack Russells as neighbours.

We are out of garlic, beans and Brussel sprouts. The farm shop has the first two on the list but is clean out of Brussels. 

Rain one minute, sunshine the next. We miraculously manage to avoid the rain. Hooded wet weather wear is much in evidence.  The university is very popular with Californians. With weather like this I can't understand why.

The Italian restaurant has again set up the outside tables and put a rose on each one. This is a triumph of hope over reality.

Angus goes for a short back and sides. It costs £8. After a £2 tip it's still cheaper ( and quicker ) than any of the towns many Turkish barbers. There is also a 'studio' at the far end of the street but this is frequented by students and the people who cut hair there are frighteningly  'hip'. With their face furniture they look rather like Spanish pirates in 1960's era 'swashbuckling ' movies. 

In the barber shop window there's an old 60's era letter informing a previous tenant that the price of condoms will be rising to 85/- per gross. This has been framed and now occupies pride of place . In fact it's the only thing in the window so I guess it has more than pride of place. The lady who cuts my hair tells me, with a chuckle, that a couple of times each semester  a male student will wander in and announce they'd like a couple of gross as a months supply. This is after all a university town and rugby club humour is timeless.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The traffic jam.


8 degrees as we head out this morning. That's almost tropical after the recent cold snap. At the roundabout the window cleaner is hard at work. Nearby parents are dropping children off at the school by the cathedral. The combination of the window cleaner popping on and off the pavement and the double parking on the school run means that a small traffic jam builds up. The delay enables us to sit in the car and people watch. You can tell the school teachers heading off to work. They're the ones wearing collar and ties.

A glorious sunrise on the beach. No wind this morning. Now, that is unusual. 

Dog owners much in evidence on the sand. Enthusiastic pooches getting extra long walks after the recent gales. I'm told ( but have yet to confirm )  that the number of PONs being born in the UK has collapsed. There now seem to be only two breeders in the country.  Instead people are buying Labradoodles and other more fashionable breeds with low(er) maintenance coats. 

To the bookstore to pick up a new tome that I've heard good things about. The fact they've had to order it in hints that there may not be much demand for books on Byzantium. We are now on first name terms with the bookstore staff.

I impulse buy a book that seems like essential reading at the moment.

Here's another version of yesterdays song :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyPRoX9y7to  After the battle of Bannockburn the French picked the tune up and it is still sung 700 years later at grand state occasions. Their version is rather more 'patriotic'. We discovered, when living there, that our village neighbours ( particularly the old soldiers among them ) would sing it at well lubricated and highly emotional communal gatherings. A more concise melding of religion, national identity and emotion would be hard to match :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg5nlWkGh3k

America's long lost civilization :https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20240122-the-discovery-of-the-americas-long-lost-rome

Don't rule 'Old' computers out :https://physics.aps.org/articles/v17/13

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Jets and lambs.


Spring must be on the way. The farmer is up at six to start ploughing the brassica field by the salt pond. By the time we pass him half of his task has been done. With so much of the farm waterlogged after the heavy rains he's decided to put the lambs out to pasture on the well drained ( but less lush ) ground at the top of the hill.

This morning the boys in blue are active. The deep roar of military jet engines bouncing off the mountains on the far side of the bay as we head down to the shore. One of the fighters hurtles low over the Last Wee House before Denmark with his afterburners on. It pulls up and soars into the sky. As it goes it woggles its wings from side to side. The ground shakes.  I'm guessing all this activity signals that not of all of the world is as peaceful as our small corner of it.

'They' - the students - are out in force. Nine, ten, two and three o'clock are the times to avoid driving into town. These are the peak change over slots for students rushing from one lecture to the next. Thousands of them appear, then disappear. Considering 'they' are supposed to be super smart Angus wonders why it's so difficult for them to stick to the pavements or avoid rushing, head down, across the road without looking. 'They' have all the common sense of a herd of C-A-T-S. We drive, slowly, along the road to avoid the throng of wayward teenagers. 'The Font' wonders if 'throng' is an Anglo-Saxon word. This morning umbrellas are much in evidence. In this climate practicality beats fashion every time.

The picture house has two new films. I've not heard of Anyone but You. From the poster I'm guessing it's a RomCom. The Boys in the Boat has had phenomenal reviews but I'm not sure a story about a 1930's rowing team will cause us to venture out in the dark in this wet weather.

We go for a coffee to the super trendy cafe. You know it's super trendy because the young men behind the counter  have that albino hair and jet black beards look. Angus, who now shares his late fathers bemusement with all things modern,  isn't sure what to make of this.

RIP the manager of this band :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3QxT-w3WMo

Oklahoma to be home to Americas tallest :https://newatlas.com/architecture/legends-tower-ao/

Burns Night singing. The man ( and they're all men ) at the 0:29 mark is clearly enjoying himself. He's probably from Glasgow. The others not so much :https://youtu.be/ulyCy1lVp_Y?t=3

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

All weather trousers.

A bark at the front door tells us that 'puppy' is here for her start of day oatcake. This is now a fixed part of her routine. As far as she's concerned all the villagers are - to a greater or lesser extent -  part of her family. She has a ' What's yours is mine' philosophy. The farmers wife has given up on making the garden escape proof. The Jack Russells are acrobatic escapologists.

Preparations for the village Burns Night well underway. The farmer who's converted his barn into an 'upmarket wedding venue ' tells me there will be live music. He wonders if Angus has any 'spare wine' in his cellar. Angus promises to see. Our conversation then turns to the wet weather, sodden fields and the shortage of grazing for the coming lambing season.

The rising sun shows that five ships are still at anchor in the bay. The four large windfarm service vessels - each as large as a cross Channel ferry -  set back out to sea late yesterday afternoon. ' You can't bring your B game to the North Sea' observes the American professor with the Australian wife and the brown and white spaniel. Or, that's what I think he's said. The American professor is wearing postbox red extreme weather gear which gives him the bulked up look of a colourful astronaut on a space walk. His entire face, bar his eyes , is covered by a voluminous, noise absorbing hood. Handy for the Yukon but a tad over the top for Fife.  He teaches Applied Physics which presumably gives him some insight into local sea conditions. 

Three tractors out ploughing the fields by the sea. Hundreds of gulls happily  grubbing for worms in the newly formed furrows behind them. After the storms twenty or so lobster creels have been piled up at the foot of the track waiting for the fisherman to come out and collect them.

Outside the cafe on the beach three golf carts and a golf bag. The local version of a traffic jam. Inside a group of English golfers . Each of them is having not one but two bacon rolls. They arrived late last night after long flight delays and a heart stopping go around at a very windy Edinburgh airport. 

Before they go the golfers order four cinnamon rolls. ' Just the thing to keep you warm in this wind ' says one of them to no one in particular. Angus notes that all the golfers are wearing 'practical and stylish' Under Armor All Weather Golf Trousers.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Calm yews.

A banshee night. The winds howling at 80 mph. Around midnight Angus discovers we have a Velux window in the attic that emits a loud and penetrating whistle when the super charged wind hits it at just the right angle. When questioned about the noise Angus informs 'The Font' that he is not going up into the attic in the darkness, in a storm, to fix it.  Around two the wind veers and the demonic tooting stops.

Five large ships sheltering in the bay last night. That number swollen to nine this morning. Each ship lit up like Coney Island on July 4th. That's the most we've seen at anchor in the year and a half we've been here. The six am breakfast show on the  radio warns of  Violent Storm Force 11 gales out in the North Sea.  To put that in perspective Force 12 is a full on hurricane. The early rising, dog walking villagers seem to think there's nothing that unusual about these conditions. The farmer takes the view that ' every time they have bad weather in London it becomes the BBC's top morning news story'. 

The sheep in the field by the golf course seem completely untroubled by the wind. They exude an air of hardy contentment.

The ram has been removed from the field so the yews can 'relax'.  One of them seems to be turning prematurely grey. She looks at Angus in a way that indicates she is unimpressed by the sight of a man in a bobble hat taking her photograph with an i-Phone.

The pub by the Divinity School has installed a new umbrella.

From the other side of the road the scale of the new umbrella is clear. It's enormous. With more gale force winds forecast will this prove to be a sensible addition to the pavement furniture ? We'll have a better feel tomorrow morning. 

The town quiet this morning. Students clearly don't like windy weather. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

20% more.


The cold spell has gone. It's been replaced by rain and 50 mph winds. On balance I preferred the cold spell. Last night we go out for dinner. The restaurant has a Grand Cru Chablis at an exceedingly reasonable price. I ask the waitress if the price is correct. ' Oh aye ' she replies. This is the green light for the end of my dry January.

The rain stops and we detour to the beach cafe for an Americano. Usually, we're the first customers but today a bobble hatted couple with a Sheltie are enjoying a bacon roll . Three large crows watch them carefully.  Within a second of the couple leaving the crows are on the table searching for crumbs.

To the bakers for a wholemeal loaf and two Burns Biscuits. A picture of Scotlands national bard , printed on rice paper, graces each one. They cost £1.80 which says a lot about how Covid and its aftermath have boosted inflation . I'd reckon that on average prices are 20% higher than they were two years ago. 

Whipped cream very evident in this mornings bakery display.

In fact this isn't so much a whipped cream display as a whipped cream on steroids display. 

There's already been strong demand for green frogs. They are super popular with toddlers. The cheerful ladies behind the counter tell me that one day last week no less than 2,000 fudge donuts were sold. It would seem the cold weather boosted the undergraduate populations demand for sugar gratification to record levels. On an average day they sell 600 of these saccharine delights.