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Chasing the seasons

Like intrepid explorers of old we have been travelling slowly north for some two months now, moving at a speed governed by the weather, our inclination to go sailing, and more recently by considerations for the comfort of our sons who have joined us for a period as crew. Remembering back in April when we were cycling NCR1 in Kent, the roadside hawthorn blossom buds were just opening, the ‘may’ that the rhyme tells us to wait for before ‘casting a clout’. Then as we journeyed north through the month of May, in Yorkshire clouds of white may blossom were once again all around us wherever we walked. Finally here we are in Angus on the east coast of Scotland, it is June and once again we see the hawthorn in bloom when we know that back in Kent the last petal has fallen to the ground weeks ago. (And incidentally once again we are on NCR1, the Dover to Inverness cycle highway, which seems to be always there waiting every time we step ashore.)

Spring this far north comes late, but when it does come it is all of a rush and the colours are rendered shockingly clear in the unpolluted air.

Mere photographs do not do justice to the feast nature puts on for us but I try to capture the smallest detail, even this bee in mid flight between flowers of the Viper’s Bugloss (nice photo eh?).

It is our first visit to Arbroath and like many other harbours we enter from the sea not knowing what we will find inside. It is not a natural harbour, but is a small area captured from the sea many centuries ago and now protected by walls of grey stone and concrete. We motor carefully through a narrow channel in the off-lying rocks guided by two white posts set one in front of the other, leading marks, past the tough looking white-painted entrance, make a sharp right turn around a harbour wall then left again into the tiny inner harbour. There is a call of welcome from a boiler-suited harbour master, “Ah, two hulls!” (catamarans are not a common sight here) and he directs us to a pontoon berth just ahead. Immediately we feel at home in this world of fisher folk. This harbour has embraced the new prosperity offered by us pleasure boaters and we are surrounded by masts and clacking halyards on fibreglass yachts; the old has come to terms with the new.

Wafts of woodsmoke drift across the harbour reminding us that Arbroath is famous for its smoked haddock, they call them Smokies, something of a cottage industry that gives the town character and no doubt a rich source of income. The smell is not unpleasant and we are delighted to have found such a place to sit out the northerly winds and wait for some southerlies or westerlies to blow us further on our way. Not that we will be idle. There is washing to be done, cliff-tops to be explored and today there is even a town fete. Then in the evening we can do no better than visit the Foundry Bar to listen to some live Scottish music.

Finally, and this is just an observation, but in common with other places we have visited in Scotland, we find Arbroath richly equipped with public conveniences. We first encountered this unpublicised Scottish phonomenon in Edinburgh last week when we discovered the castle’s own superbly well appointed facilities then, not a stone’s throw from the rock on which it stands, at least two similar establishments. How different from many English cities where calls of nature must go unanswered.

The picture here, I hasten to add, is of Edinburgh’s rock-bound castle, not of the convenience that lies within.

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