Sunday 3 May 2020

A Walk along the Coast

After a week of news reading and writing, it was so good to slip the confines of the neighbourhood and go for a real tramp along the coast to the farms by Seton Castle. Before Benedict Ambrose got sick, we often went for day-long rambles in the countryside that ended with a hearty pub supper before we grabbed the bus or train home. Thus, this was like old times, apart from the route. We have never followed the Firth of Forth so far east.

It was an unusually beautiful day of sunshine, even for the the central-east coast. (Locals who moan that there is no sun here have strangely short memories.) We took no bag and wore fleece jackets we could take off and tie around our waists. B.A. wore walking shoes, and I stuck to my usual chunky red slip-ons, more comfortable for  long walks than my running shoes. It sprinkled rain just as we went out the door, so I exchanged my fine Panama for a French Scouting hat. Carrick c'est chic--except in Britain, where it looks strange, so I tied it behind my braids instead of under my chin.

I stopped to take a photograph of some harebells, also known as Scottish bluebells,  at the beginning of our journey. It is now May, so there are riots of flowers have popped up everywhere. I will add them to this post for your enjoyment. Meanwhile, there were also many people out for their government-approved exercise, and we didn't see any police presence until the end of our journey. The sight of so many couples with children (always two children--not one, not three or more) was heartwarming. They too walked along the coast, exclaiming in English or Polish (Zobacie!) at the view.
Arthur's Seat
One sight of interest was Arthur's Seat, looming orange and green in the distance. Another was the cruise ships and oil tanker taking refuge in the middle of the Firth of Forth, as they have been since the beginning of the lockdown. There was also the Kingdom of Fife, for it was such a clear day we could see the towns on the opposite shore and the Lomonds behind them. Eventually we had a very good view of the Forth Bridge, too.

Benedict Ambrose spotted a St. Mark's Fly, so called because it makes its appearance on the 25th of April, and I duly photographed it. B.A. also thought he saw a cormorant, but it was at such a distance that we were never sure.

One of the features of Scotland is the bright yellow common gorse, and I was astonished as we walked among them and I breathed in the apparently mistakable scent of coconuts. B.A. recited some lines of a poem he wrote about a walk we took on Blackford Hill almost 10 years ago:

Opalescent mist 
Shows, hides, shows the town beneath;
The pale scent of gorse. 

The Blackford Hill walk was in autumn, so perhaps the scent of gorse was pale then. It was not at all pale on this bright sunny day. It reminded me of expensive sun-tan lotion and British children's books about the seaside.

As we walked along, I thought about Wendell Berry writing that tobacco was to his part of Kentucky as the horse was to the Plains Indian, and I asked B.A. what was the East Coast of Scotland's equivalent. As I believe is common to husbands, he didn't entirely understand the question.

"What makes Scotland different from other places, like Toronto for example?" I tried.

B.A. said lots of things, not just one thing, but couldn't name any at that moment.

"The Scots love their old buildings and don't want to knock them down," I suggested.

"Sometimes," said B.A., who is from much destroyed Dundee. "Recently."

One thing that differentiates the Scots from the English (and perhaps third-generation-plus English-speaking Canadians) is that they are not taught to be ashamed of their history and, in fact, they are not ashamed of it, not even the defeats. Don't try suggesting to the Scots that they colluded in the colonisation of the British Empire because, first, they won't believe you and, second, they will be offended. Bannockburn, people. Glencoe. Margaret Thatcher.  

After much thinking, I realise that that which united and defined the East Coast of Scotland for centuries was fish: catching fish, gutting fish, selling fish. Our own last local fishwife (and fishwives were women of honour here, by the way, not a byword for scolding) retired in the 1950s.

As usual, B.A. could not resist skipping stones on the surface of the Firth of Forth.

There are towns all along the Firth of Forth, most of them former fishing villages or ports. (Oliver Cromwell and his men did a lot of damage to them on his way up north.) There are still some little marinas and shipbuilders. There are also large stone walls to keep the Forth out of gardens, and some of the walls have wooden doors in them, which I love. My great dream is to live in a house with a fan light over the front door and a walled garden with a painted wooden door in it.

I took a photograph of a cat on one of these walls.

Incidentally, these towns are rather humble, which means that even some of the very poor have sea views, if we count the Firth of Forth as part of the North Sea.  There are also local regulations preventing the building of hideous, Toronto-style cheaply built concrete, multi-story condominiums along the coast although (let's face it) the public housing aka council estates are no beauties themselves.

Of course the not-poor have lovelier homes, and some of them have been cleverly built into refurbished old stone industrial buildings. Others were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and naturally there are Historical Houses of grandeur, including castles.

When we got to Port Seton, we considered having fish-and-ships at Bene's but decided to press on to the farm shop and go to Bene's on the way back. When we got almost as far as Seton Sands, B.A. found the path to the farms, and we turned our faces towards the countryside. Eventually the wooded path led us to great fields of vegetables and to views of Seton Castle. We heart shots a couple of times, but they were not from a rifles but from a propane cannon in the fields, a much noisier bird-scarer than the boiler suit scarecrows.

We followed the path around the fields to a road and then went up the road to a small hamlet of stone farmhouses and outbuildings. We couldn't find the farm shop, so eventually B.A. asked a man who had been mowing grass about it. It turns out that the shop closed a year ago. No farm shop.
Orange boiler suit as scarecrow.

However, we were happy to have had the walk, and B.A. was happy not to have to carry a heavy bag of eggs and organic vegetables. That was, however, the farm shop nearest to us, so it looks as though there isn't a farm shop within walking distance of our home after all.

We were thoroughly tired of walking, so instead of going to Bene's, we went to Seton Sands to catch the bus. Our luck was in--the bus came within ten minutes, and we were allowed to clamber on and sit looking at the Firth of Forth until it was time to go. The journey back was humiliatingly short.

I have suggested that next weekend we walk three miles from the relevant railway station to our truly nearest farm shop and then the three miles back. This depends, of course, on the train schedules and the lockdown. I'm not sure civil authorities deems the support of the county's organic produce essential travel although it should. If they've taken draconian steps to counteract the environmental disaster that is the COVID-19 coronavirus, why not take draconian steps to counteract the environmental disaster that is the globalist food industry?

Over in Poland, Polish Pretend Son is huffing and snorting at his computer reading such a totalitarian sentiment on my blog. But I'm not calling for tyranny: I'm just pointing out the inconsistency.  And speaking of Polish Pretend Son, one of the weirder bright spots of the coronavirus disaster is that apparently smokers are less likely to die from it. This is the first time in my lifetime that anyone has suggested that smoking can preserve your life. I'm sure it will never happen again---or am I?

More photographs for your lockdown enjoyment:

For sale: offers over £8 million.
This is when I said "Let's move here!"
Lomonds, Forth, Port Seton, Vegetables

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