Friday, February 23, 2024



Snow on the hills on the far side of the bay. The supply boat remains firmly at anchor offshore. This confluence of factors would usually indicate that bad weather is on the way but it's calm and bright and warm(ish)....or at least not cold. The farmer is up and about early releveling the ground in the potato field where the large lake has formed in the recent rains. He promises to smooth out some of the potholes on the track that leads down to the Last wee house before Denmark.

With a sixteen hour flight ahead of us we go for a long walk to stretch our legs. The harbour is busy. Better weather has brought out the part time fishermen and the berths have filled up with small boats of varying degrees of sea worthiness.

The tours for the parents of wannabe students continue.  These are very international affairs. We step off the pavement to let a particularly determined group pass by. They have the look and intensity of folks who are on a mission. An American woman at the tail end is chatting to a student guide and asking how safe the town is. The guide assures her that 'Crime isn't a big thing here. This  isn't Portland '. Has Portland really become the text book example of urban disorder ?

Fudge buns arrive fresh at the bakers.

The bakers window is displaying something unusual. Angus isn't sure what's on offer but 'The Font' says they're chocolate lipsticks and nail polish. A chocolate set of gardening tools complete the tableau. Mothers Day offerings ?

Easter eggs make a seasonal splash in the window of the chocolate shop. They're  in the process of receiving a major delivery. The window is already full and more cartons are being wheeled into the store room. Angus is greatly taken with a large Lindt rabbit with a red bow . Chocolate from an Easter Lindt rabbit always tastes special. 'The Font' thinks this belief is psychological but isn't sure what it signifies. 

Now a quick trip back home and then off in the car to Edinburgh airport.

Fun facts :

Should politicians understand history ? :

Toulouse is a greatly underestimated city :

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Psychedelic light.

A drizzly one minute sunshine the next type of morning. Puppy and one of her elder sisters race to meet us. What can make for a better day than mud and drizzle ... and the promise of an oat cake ?

On the path down to the shore a rainbow. Off to one side an offshore support vessel is heading into the bay. It's coming in quickly so there must be a  storm in our immediate future. The ship sails through the rainbow and , for a moment, is covered in psychedelic light. The Jack Russells accompany us down to the waters edge and then rush off in pursuit of something only they can see. Fifteen cormorants are standing wing tip to wing tip on the rocks. A comical sight. From this distance they look like a rugby team lined up,  shoulder to shoulder, before singing the national anthem. 

On the sand the outline of where the dunes used to be before Novembers high tides very visible in the morning sunrise. Clumps of snowdrops to be seen everywhere. Eight South African golfers are waiting by the Old Course. They couldn't sleep with the excitement and have arrived half an hour before their tee off time.

Town filling up with tourists. Lots of parents visiting to see if this is the place where their 'little angels'  should spend four years. This must be peak application time for those wanting to come here in September. Student guides wearing their red gowns do their best to answer worried mothers questions. They block the pavements and look skywards to admire another weather beaten example of Scottish architecture. Some of the fathers seem to be quietly wondering if any place can be this windy.

In the church the Scottish Chamber Orchestra staff are clearing up after last nights concert.

Today shall be spent packing in readiness for tomorrows journey to London and then Tokyo on Saturday. We have decided to travel light although 'The Font' has a different , and quite possibly otherworldly, understanding of what this word means.

Playing in the student cafe this morning Nigerian Afrobeat. The young lady behind the counter tells me it's very 'Gucci'. This apparently means good. :

Great analysis on a place folks know little about :

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

My grandfather may have mentioned him.

At this time of the year the courtyard outside the house is home to five partridge, seven quail and a solitary male pheasant. As we set off on our morning walk  they fly away amid much squawking and beating of wings. I'm amazed we can be ten minutes from a University town and still feel as though we're somewhere really remote.

The tide is out this morning. The layers of tilted sedimentary rocks that shield the beach clearly visible. There used to be scores of old stone circles in the fields below the raised beach. Every so often a surprised dog walker or tractor driver unearths an iron age tomb. The discovery of human bones mean the police have to be called.  I'll wager the reason this was a holy site is that standing stones could be chiseled out of the rock layer and easily dragged over the shore  to the fields inland. That , at least, is what I'd do if I was a Druid in these parts 3000 years ago.

Looking back down the coast the spires of the town catch the sunrise.

Yesterday, we popped down to Edinburgh for 'The Font ' to do some pre- Japan trip shopping. Angus heads off to buy a new i-Phone. The young lady sales assistant at the Apple store has a Polish accent. She comes from Szczecin. Have you ever been to Poland she asks ? I tell her I studied at the Jagiellonian in Krakow when General Jaruzelski was President.  " I've never heard of him " she says. Then after a pause she cheerfully tells me  " I think maybe my grandfather mentioned his name " . After this shock to the system Angus settles down in a bar that is decorated for rugby fans visiting the Six Nations games. The old i-Phone is traded in and valued at £250 which makes the new phone merely eye wateringly expensive.

Before heading home we try out Gordon Ramsays restaurant on St. Andrews Square. Lunch comes to £17 a head which by current standards is a doddle. The food was on the right side of ok. The place is probably heaving in the evenings. 'The Font' has a beetroot thing as a starter and an even healthier Quinoa thing as a main course. Angus has battered cod bites followed by chicken Parmigiana - these , it is pointed out, disapprovingly,  are less healthy.

Dog biscuits in the ticket hall at the station. The sign above them on the wall  emphasizes that they're not for humans.  The presence of the sign implies that some people eat them. There seems to be an industrial dispute on the London trains. One minute the departure board says they're late the next minute they're cancelled. No one seems to be sure. We pay to go back on ScotRail. Our train has the heating full on which makes the hermetically sealed compartment happily soporific. We're home before we know it.

We thought of going to the cinema to see The Zone of Interest but it's too good a night to be indoors. A group of students are on the beach digging a deep trench with large orange snow shovels. We stand and watch them for a few minutes but sand shoveling students can maintain ones interest for only so long. What could they possibly be doing ? Anyone sane is wrapped up against the wind but the students are in tee shirts. We shall go the cinema when it's raining.  I'm told the movie bears no relation to the Martin Amis novel.

We discuss this article on the train down to Edinburgh although, if the truth be told, Angus has little useful to bring to the conversation. This is one mean corner of the universe he intends to steer well clear of :

Useful for village quiz nights. What was America's first capital ? :

Yes. This is indeed a thing :

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Endless light.


Much brighter in the mornings  now. We've passed the point in the year when this  little northern town is shrouded in sixteen hours of darkness. We're now fast heading towards the time of endless day. The rose bushes and peonies are putting out their first new growth . We're still waiting to hear when the landscape gardener plans to start work. " All the bad weather's shot my timetable tae pieces " he informs me without providing any clues as to when he might appear. We get an e-mail from the snooty French kitchen company saying they're free to come and quote on some work we wanted done. They will be surprised when I tell them we moved back to the UK in 2022. 

In the harbour a solitary curlew. A gull watches it breakfasting on whatever lives in the mud flats.

Further down the beach a group of students are returning from an early swim. Another group play touch rugby. Dog owners walk by doing their best to ignore these youthful high jinks. The students are of course oblivious to the presence on the beach of anyone over the age of 30. Two terriers try to get involved in the game of touch rugby but are ignored.

Overnight the flower planters down by the lobster creels bursting into life. It's not only the students who sense that Spring is on the way.

A rather unappetizing selection of cakes on display .  They're too sophisticated for Angus. One of them contains fennel.  Not a taste to be conjured with before eleven.

An Indian restaurant informs potential customers that the buffet is available from 5:00 to 9:30. It adds  ' buffet uplifted 9:15 '. Wouldn't it be easier to say that last orders are at 9:15 ? There's something strangely old fashioned about the word 'uplifted '. 

Don't know where I saw this chart but those Scandinavians are sure all clustered together as self-expressive secularists :

This mornings radio music. The broadcaster is clear that this is the best version ever :

Monday, February 19, 2024

' No it isn't ' .


Two cases of wine have 'gone missing'. Half a dozen phone calls later the wine merchant agrees to send on replacements. It seems that 'liquids in glass' aren't covered by insurance so the merchant has to cover the cost himself. No wonder he was so slow in authorizing replacements. All our courier companies are reliable and friendly... with one exception. It goes without saying which company the vintner  used. I discover , during our conversation, that the sales of wine at restaurants and hotels is down 19% since the start of the pandemic. It seems that millennials and Gen-Zers are drinking less but spending more on their wine.

Valentines Day a distant memory and the supermarket now turns its attention to Easter .

Last year we'd noticed that Easter Eggs had been superseded by Easter dinosaurs. This year 'Flossy the Highland Cow' appears on the shelves.

Yesterday we drove into Dundee. A group of women in sensible clothing were busy with a pot of glue and brushes pasting up a poster. " Good morning " I say as we pass them. ' No it isn't ' comes the reply. There is an expletive added between the 'it' and the 'isn't '. We opt to move on in silence.

By the time we return from our walk the angry women have gone. This enables us to read the poster they'd been pasting up. It contains more information than one might imagine possible. Small print and a mass of text isn't perhaps the best  structure for a roadside poster. It would seem the climate activist ladies are very angry.

This mornings radio music :

A Los Angeles museum :

The Dundee women would agree with this but I'm not sure that climate risk - although serious - tops the list of threats over the next two years. I'd also think older citizens might have a surprising degree of agency and experience to deal with the unexpected  :

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Let them be saying.


Another lovely morning. The town busy with visiting families. Yesterday the local teenage rugby teams were out helping the rangers clean the beach. This morning the sand is looking very spick and span.  Overnight some idiots have been along and  done wheelies in their cars on the grass. The newly laid turf churned up and looking much the worse for wear.

Better weather means the golfers are back. Australian and American accents heard in the restaurants. The groundsmen are kept busy sweeping the greens. They studiously ignore the dogs that wander over to see what they're doing.

An arch with a carved inscription " They have said and they will say Let them be saying ".  Underneath it the date 1720.  I have no idea what this means but the Episcopal minister , on his way to open up the church,  stops to explain that it's a lintel from an old cottage. When the cottage was demolished in the 1930's the carving was taken down and put here.  It's written in Renaissance Scots and basically means People will have their own opinions but it's up to you to make up your own mind. An early warning of the dangers of disinformation. He thinks it may be the motto of Aberdeen university.

A house with huge windows. I'm guessing it was once an office for a firm of solicitors. From the ground floor windows it would now appear to be lived in by students.

Another closure. The dog friendly cafe has gone. This has happened suddenly. The notice in the window is very ' new age '. When we moved back from France a detour here was part of our morning dog walk. Its bacon rolls were much admired. I'm sure there is a 'story' behind this development. Is it the recession, changing tastes ( the Korean fusion cafe next door is always busy ) or some more personal challenge ?

Saturday, February 17, 2024

A quizzical look.


Longer, brighter days drawing dogs and their owners onto the beach in increasing numbers. This morning student joggers are also out and about. To complete this cosmopolitan scene a smattering of bobble hatted weekenders from one of the big golf resorts stroll along  enjoying the sunrise while they wait for breakfast to be served. The golf car parks are full and foursomes are backed up waiting to tee off - a sure sign that Spring is on the way ?

The beach rangers have been hard at work dredging up sand and relaying it as a defence against the tide. A solitary workman is laying out red and white tape to mark out where todays sand dump should go.  The oyster catchers have gone but the shore is covered in hundreds of comical Sanderlings. We walk along chuckling at their antics.

In the beach cafe a brown dog is sharing a bacon roll with his owner.  

Every so often the brown dog turns to look quizzically at a smaller dog in the corner. 

The other dog emits sharp yelps of frustration. It's a cruel world where some dogs get fed bits of bacon roll while others have to put up with the gummed crust of a cheese toastie.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Razor clams.


A week before we fly. It's not the cabin pressure but the dry recirculated air that harms the eye so a prescription for lubricating drops has been provided. The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East mean that the British Airways flight has to weave a complicated path through unfriendly airspace around Crimea and Syria. Russian airspace is of course blocked. The direct distance from London to Tokyo is just under 6,000 miles but the actual flight now covers a whopping 8,800 miles. Going, it takes 14 hours. Coming back it's nearly 16. That's a long time to be sitting still.

Although the dunes have been washed away the root structures of the marram grass are still visible stretching out into the sand . This shows just how much of the coast has been eroded since the autumn storms.

This morning the beach covered in razor clams.  This is really quite a  remarkable sight. Dogs out for a morning walk discover they make an intriguing 'cracking' noise as they run over the clams.

Gulls. Tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of them snacking away happily on the razor clams. Every so often the high tide, much to the seabirds delight, will  bring in a 'surprise ' like this. 

A leaflet advertising a rail trip to Blackpool is dropped in the letter box. For £395 ( + £50 extra for a window seat supplement ) a traveler can sit at a table 'laid with crisp linen and fully dressed with fine crockery, fresh flowers and glassware. Settle into your seat with a glass of chilled Buck's Fizz followed by a full English breakfast and late morning tea/coffee served with pastries prior to the arrival at our destination'. 

A cheaper 'First Class' option is available. For £195 ( plus the £50 window seat supplement ) you can enjoy the same journey but with the option to bring your own picnic hamper and drinks for consumption during the journey'. There is something very 1930's about the idea of a railway journey with enthusiastic voyagers lunching from wicker picnic hampers. The reality may be one of Tupperware, paper plates and sticky fingers. 

Have just started this book which a friend in DC has recommended.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

" Nice "

Three maintenance men are noisily delivering new chairs to the hospital waiting room.  A dungaree wearing gentleman with a strong Clackmannanshire accent informs the nurses that ' The new chairs is grey, the old yuns is blue. Where d'ya want them ?'. The nurses think the old ones should be taken away. The man curtly says 'I'm nae in the loop on that '. That almost certainly  means the chairs are staying.  By the time the furniture has been set out and rearranged several times -  the question of whether there should be three chairs or four around a table proving to be particularly vexing -  it's time for me to see the surgeon. Or, to be more precise, I'm moved to another, smaller, waiting area where I sit in isolation for ten minutes. A rather prim woman in a blue smock arrives. ' You're not supposed to be here' she says as if talking to a troublesome six year old.' We've been looking for you everywhere'.  I try to explain but the blue smocked woman is holding the door open and bustling me along to the 'right department'. I'm guessing that grey walls, blue furniture and wooden floors are designed to provide a calm and relaxing atmosphere. In this they fail.

While I wait for the surgeon there's ample time to study the notices on the wall. I'm particularly taken with an 'I Spy'  guide to who's who in the hospital system. The stern woman could be a staff nurse or a specialist nurse whose smock has been washed so many times it's faded. I'm guessing that small talk is not the stern womans forte so questions about staff uniforms can - prudently - wait until another day. A cheerful ' Looking after you ' has been added to the bottom right corner of the notice. 

Back at the Last wee house before Denmark there's a rather fine rainbow. Rainbows are commonplace here but never cease to thrill. The curlews are busy doing whatever curlews do. 

In town the fancy ladies outfitters has changed its window display. A stridently pink outfit that would put Barbie to shame has pride of place.  'Take a walk on the wild side ' is embroidered, vertically, down its front. Angus wonders if this is an altogether apt fashion statement  for the Presbyterian ladies of St Andrews.

The wee barbers is closing. I used to come here for a short back and sides when I was a student. Fifty years later it's still doing short back and sides. What a link to the past. Time to change to the Turkish barbers by the town fountain.  The barber there finishes off his handiwork by whipping out a cigarette lighter and burning off ear hairs. Students seem to think this is great fun. Angus has reached an age where proximity to a cigarette lighter wielding  stranger elicits concern.

The bookstore has taken delivery of a book  ordered for next weeks trip to Japan. ' Going to Japan ?' asks the man behind the counter while carefully studying the cover. 'Yes' I reply. " Nice " comes his response.

Last night we watch the last two episodes of One Day. Our pre-dinner Netflix hour. The ending isn't what I expected.

Tickets have been booked for this : and this  ( although Angus is suspicious that it may be 'trendy'  :