Happiness in bitter cold
I'm biased of course, but there's nothing that can lift winter-dulled spirits better than a day of bitter cold, pure Northern skies and the wide expanse of the North Sea. Scotland's coastline from the Moray Firth down to the Kingdom of Fife is in my blood. My forebears fished out of the small Moray Firth ports, venturing round the tip of Scotland to the West coast, but most often following the herring down the East coast as far as Great Yarmouth in England. Family tradition has it that on one occasion my grandfather's boat reached as far as Calais, where touching attempts at speaking French were deployed. The crew asked for directions to the 'postie-officie' - because at a time before domestic telephones the first thing to be done on reaching any port was to send a postcard home to announce the safe arrival: "Made the land in [insert port]. All well." Fresh food was the next priority - with my grandfather asking in a baker's shop for 'one breada'. My grandfather died before I reached my teens. I like to think he would have been amazed and proud that his granddaughter became fluent in the language that he and his crew tried to negotiate.
Yesterday we were in St Andrews on just such a spirit-lifting day. The shot above is of the cathedral ruins. Built on the site of earlier churches, the cathedral dates from 1160. In its time it was Scotland's greatest cathedral, but tragically was left to fall into ruin during the Protestant Reformation. You can read more about the cathedral at the Historic Scotland site.
From the grandeur of the ruins to intimate acts of remembrance: we came across these hand-knittted poppies on the cathedral railings.
The small stone pier always draws us when we're in St Andrews.
Lobster creels were piled up on the quayside, and we watched a boat returning from setting some out.
For all its wide horizons and medieval grandeur, St Andrews is a very intimate place. On the pier I noticed this fragment of china set into the surface. I'm sorry it's a blurry image - the sun was so bright that I couldn't see if my wee camera was in focus. You'll notice some splashes of red. We saw these all along the pier, and after the first lurid thought - "historic blood of medieval martyrs" - realised that they were candle wax. There is a long tradition of St Andrews University students processing along the pier in their red undergraduate gowns after the Sunday service in the University chapel. However that is in the middle of the day, and however dark it gets in Scotland in winter I doubt if these processions are candle-lit. There is a candle-lit procession on 30 April each year, in memory of student John Honey, so perhaps the wax has endured the year since then. Or it may be from an informal Christmas celebration. Archaelogical mystery!
The intimate also extends to the size of some houses.
And to the decorated windows that can be found around the town.
Today the sky is flat and grey, with snow forecast. It's good to have yesterday's brightness to look back on.