Songs from Northern Britain

With thanks to Teenage Fanclub for the post title. Never heard of Teenage Fanclub?! No? Try this: Ain’t That Enough?

I’ve been driving about northern Britain for the past week, windows down and enjoying almost sunshine and one or two rain showers. Then the windows go back up. They’re also back up whenever I start to sing, seems only fair to the people living here.

St. Andrews Castle

I never lived in northern Britain, but visited often over the years. I felt a little nostalgic for a place I don’t know that well, but I think it was more the music I’d chosen. My driving playlists had a northern leaning, and they made for better listening than the ongoing Brexit/Bloody Boris Johnson stupidity dominating the airwaves. Grrr.

Where was I? Teenage Fanclub, excellent listening for the past three plus decades, and very appropriate for the Scottish leg of the trip. I remember an album review from over ten years ago that described them as “wizened” even then – they were younger than my age now! So this wizened listener enjoyed hearing the old songs, particularly from the Songs From Northern Britain album. “Here is a sunrise, ain’t that enough?” Well, yes, sometimes. The last three tracks on that album are even better than the opening three. Cue beer fuelled debate with sibling.

The pale ale was better, unless you asked my brother…

When I drove away from St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife earlier this week, having caught up with Junior McPlaidCamper, the weather was a touch misty – or I may have had something in my eye. Whatever the cause, I’m pretty sure I passed a sign for Angle Park. Let the memories from distant youth flood back. Angle Park? The bonus track on The Crossing by Big Country? Big Country! I was in a big country alright, with high hills and low mountains accompanying me through the Kingdom of Fife. What pleasant surroundings to find yourself in. The North Fife coastal path will call me back for further exploration. Never heard of Big Country?! Try this: Big Country – The Seer

Sunny St. Andrews

Junior is happy enough in St. Andrews, working hard in several of the hotel kitchens, and producing good food mostly made from local ingredients. We visited the store that provides ice cream to the hotel, and if you’re ever up there, can I recommend the pistachio? And the rum and raisin? And the mint choc chip? And the salted caramel? And pants with an elastic waistband? Yup, that’s how some of the evening went.

I get a brain freeze just looking

Before St. Andrews, I stayed a few days with younger Brother PlaidCamper, allegedly to help him out a bit as he recovers from a hospital stay. Mostly we sat in his sunny backyard, talking nonsense about books, movies, and music, and drinking a beer or two. Then more nonsense. He’s on the mend, and probably not because of my medical bedside manner…

Didn’t see a purple moose on this trip. Next time?

My final stop on the northern Britain tour was in North Wales, and an overnight with Pa PlaidCamper. He’s also on good form, pretending to be annoyed with Blue, his constant canine companion. They’ve sold the farm, and will be moving to a small hillside cottage located a few minutes away in the same valley. We drove past it yesterday, and it is in a beautiful location with spectacular views in every direction. If you can imagine steep green hillsides dotted with sheep and stands of trees all about, then that’s where they’ll be. Green and pleasant is an understatement.

Blue!
Green! And pleasant.

Thanks for tuning in this week, and so to a final rousing song – if you know the words, feel free to sing along (I’ll roll the windows up): In a Big Country

There will be more about St. Andrews – and far less music, I promise – next week. Have a wonderful weekend!

Summer snaps

Oh no, please don’t let this be a slideshow of an OldPlaidCamper summer vacation, akin to those endured by some in the 1970s. You remember, where your neighbours invite you round to see their holiday snaps projected onto a wall, and there’s a bowl of peanuts and a glass of warm flat lemonade for refreshments. Yikes/shudder. Slightly sweaty after writing that, a disconcerting flashback to a happy childhood. Stranger things in an earlier decade…

Mrs. PC took this excellent summer snap. I’m certainly looking my best here…

No, nothing like that. A brief post because I should be packing and finding my passport for the lightning trip to northern Britain starting Friday. Instead of getting that organized, we’ve been enjoying the start of our summer, spending time on the beach, on the trails and in the hammock. The hammock is thanks to US Brother PlaidCamper, sent to us after he stayed last summer and endured the disappointment of our little balcony sans hammock. It’s lovely to have, but sure does take up some space. A bit like having your brother visit. I’ll be paying it forward by visiting UK Brother PlaidCamper. I hope he has a hammock.

I’m assuming mama bear was close by – I didn’t hang around to find out

Bears and bald eagles have been our major wildlife sightings, as well as a wolf – yes, at last, a wolf! The wolf was spotted by Mrs. PC a couple of weeks ago, lurking outside a restaurant just up the road, a place called Howlers. It’s like the wolf knew. Then I saw it a few days later, again just outside Howlers. In the end, we’d convinced ourselves perhaps it was a large wolf-dog hybrid, as there are a fair few locally, and the animal we saw didn’t seem too bothered by the people about. On Wednesday, there was a public message posted, warning residents of a wolf in the vicinity of Howlers, so a wolf it probably is. I wish I’d been able to take a photo. Maybe I’ll head over to Howlers after writing this. They do a good veggie burger, decent fries, and they have Tofino blonde on tap – a good evening even if the wolf stays (wisely) away! Displacement activity from packing? Yup.

Warmer than it appears

The weather has generally been gusty, grey and dry, with occasional bursts of sunshine in between low cloud, some murk and almost fog. Never too cold, and never too hot, always comfortable enough when we’re out and about. And comfortable enough for some hammock time.

“Forget the hammock – we have the beach!”

The snaps included with this piece were all taken in the past week, and if you’re desperate for something to do this weekend, please feel free to use them in a wall-projected slideshow presentation – viewing enjoyment is enhanced with flat lemonade and a bowl of peanuts…

Cold, no peanuts required

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Look out, look out, the bridge is out

A few weeks back, we arranged to have another gourmet cookout with Wayne from Tofino Photography. Our destination was Second Bridge, and if you need to find it, go down that logging road after the junction, bounce and jolt up past First Bridge, and then…

…well, if I told you where precisely, then it might get crowded in the future. But rest assured it’s out there, and you’ll know you’re close when the road comes to an end because the bridge is out.

Look out, look out!

A quiet spot – we were told it can get busy, and certainly used to be a touch rowdy with party people on long weekends before the road was closed – it made a good place to have a fire and roast some hot dogs. The weekend had been warm and sunny the day before we went, but a change came, with grey skies, lower temperatures, and even a hint of rain. This seemed to have kept people away, and we only encountered a handful of visitors.

One couple had been camping overnight just down the beach. They chatted a bit, and Wayne shared a few stories, and some tips in the event of a cougar encounter (there had been some sightings elsewhere along the lake) and mere minutes after that, the young couple had packed up and disappeared. I don’t think it was the cougar info…

It left an empty beach for us to enjoy, and we had a fine time cooking and eating. Wayne brought high end hot dogs and slices of key lime pie from SoBo. Excellent choice, and we had to be quick about it, because Scout sure seemed to take to the pie.

“Pie?!”

We didn’t see a cougar, or a bear, and thankfully the black flies didn’t follow us down to the beach. They were lurking when we parked up, but there was enough breeze to keep bugs at bay.

A wildlife feature for the afternoon? The hundreds and hundreds of geese passing over in long skeins high above us. We honestly could not count them, but what a sight to see – and hear! Wave after wave after wave.

Wayne knows the area pretty well, and he told us about the great camping spots to be discovered along the shore, and how they can only be approached from the water. They sound rather wonderful, and a compelling reason to return, drop a canoe with camping gear into the water, and spend a little more time out by the bridge and beyond.

Further exploration required…

I don’t know when our next cookout adventure will be or where, but it’s something to look forward to, likely after the summer visitors have headed home and it’s a bit quieter. I do know Wayne has set the gourmet bar pretty high with that key lime pie!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Messing about…

…in boats! Oh, alright, we don’t have a boat, but ever since the courses last week, I’ve been keeping a beady eye on boats around here – more so than usual…

Too big?

I’m very pleased to report all the participants passed the other two courses, the Marine Emergency Duties on Friday, and the Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) for VHF radio, on Saturday. Now all we need is a small vessel to put theory into practice!

Too old?

We’ve been enjoying glorious weather, and Scout has insisted we stop and look at all the boats in the harbours. She’ll take me up and down the docks early in the day, then absolutely insist we go back later with Mrs. PlaidCamper, to show her our favourites. It’s quite a long list.

Lovely colour!

I give Scout a pat on the head for being a good dog on the docks, especially when we see harbour seals and river otters, and Mrs. PC gives a gentle shake of the head whenever we slow down at a particular vessel. The head shaking is a bit more emphatic each time we approach the Tromso. To be honest, I’m always surprised – and delighted – she’s still afloat. I don’t know if the price is falling in line with her water position. There’s a little less freeboard each passing season…

“Lovely colour?! Seriously? She’s no Tromso… Ooh, is that a seal I can smell down here?”

A very brief piece this week, as I scramble to catch up with myself after a week away from regular duties, and then start to get items sorted for an upcoming long weekend away off the grid. Yup, we’ll be heading to our destination in small vessels. Perhaps one of them needs a vastly inexperienced maritime OldPlaidCamper at the helm?

Any of these? Nope.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Scavenging

Last Friday turned into a pretty good Good Friday. Sunshine was promised and eventually made an appearance in the early afternoon. It seemed like a beach day, so that is where we went.

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This is where we went

We hadn’t been to Wick Beach in quite a while, and it was a very pleasant stroll we were having when we saw quite a crowd of ravens hopping about a clump of something in the distance. As we approached, the ravens flapped off, and we could see the sizeable remains of – I think – a sea lion. We skirted past swiftly, not wanting to enjoy the aroma any longer than necessary, and to give space back to the ravens.

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“Ooh, just a quick peck…”

A little way beyond the body we saw a juvenile eagle sitting on a stump, no doubt waiting for us to move on, and perhaps hoping the ravens would leave a little something.DSCF8062

As we wandered by, two adult bald eagles flew past us towards the remains. We thought it was starting to get rather crowded. If it hadn’t been dead, the sea lion could have become quite irritated with all the attention…DSCF8073

We kept going up the beach, and eventually hunkered down in front of the dunes, slightly elevated on a log and amongst the long grasses. From there, the cadaver commotion was almost out of sight, and we switched our attention to the ocean, looking out for and spotting many spouting whales.DSCF8064

Once we’d finished our coffee, after Scout had demolished a fair chunk of washed up log, and given up digging a deep hole in the sand for me to fall into as I stood, we set off back down the beach. As we drew closer to the corpse, we could see quite a crowd. Three adult bald eagles, two juveniles, and a smattering of ravens were figuring out how the goodies were going to be shared.

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“Save some for me – I’m still growing…”

We stuck to the dune side of the beach, not wanting to get involved, and anyway, after coffee and chocolate, we weren’t feeling the need to scavenge. I couldn’t believe Scout wasn’t more interested in the proceedings, but she wasn’t.

The photographs I took were at the outer limits of what my camera and shaky hands could handle, and really none too sharp, but I’ve used them here anyway, in case you’re a fan of partially consumed corpses…

When we got home, I got caught up on the blogs I enjoy, and one of them was a perfect piece to read after our earlier adventure. It made me stop and think about how vulnerable many species are. Living out here, one could (but I’m not) become a bit complacent about the numerous bald eagle sightings we are blessed with. If you have the time, I heartily recommend you head over to read Jet Eliot – you won’t be sorry!DSCF8083

If the weather holds – and it has turned warm and sunny this week – then perhaps we’ll head up Wick once again over the coming weekend, check out the state of the scavenged. I doubt there’ll be much left, maybe not much more than a few picked over and pecked clean bones. That’s life, and death.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Sand and stone

Wind and rain, bark and bone. Sounds like the start of a spell, but it’s a small list of the gritty and grainy outdoor life we’ve been experiencing the past little while.

I was lucky enough to find an extra hour on the beach last week. A meeting finished earlier than expected, and there wasn’t enough time left in the day to get back and start something new – if I drove really slowly, and I never rush in the Jeep…

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Scoured

The wind was blasting down the beach, from north to south, and provided a real push in the back as I headed out. In a positive frame of mind, I likened it to a helping hand. Sand snakes were racing past me, long writhing ribbons that I couldn’t keep pace with.

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Sand snakes

A few hardy kite surfers were performing tricks in the surf, traveling scarily fast and leaping up into the air. Holding onto my hat, I stopped to watch them, admiring the skill and choreography as they appeared to narrowly avoid colliding with each other. A tip of the hat there, not that they could see. It was too cold to stop for long, and I’d targeted a particular set of rocks as my goal for a there and back trip.

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I clambered up on the rocks, and goodness me it was windy up there! I decided not to linger too long, knowing the walk back up the beach was going to be a tad more trying without that helping hand. It really was a bit of an effort, and every now and then an extra strong gust would blow the sand somewhat higher than knee height. My apple snack was a trifle gritty…

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Same rocks, several days later

I’ve written before about the joys of a few “stolen” moments in a work day, time when you can get outside and enjoy the elements. This was very much the case last week. I wouldn’t choose a big blow as my favourite weather, but I didn’t mind blowing away a few post-committee cobwebs!

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The photograph above of Scout on the rocks was taken a few days later, at the rocks I’d headed to earlier in the week, and the day was a good deal calmer. Still windy, but manageable.

Bark and bone? A different weekend day, one where we heard logs crashing into the rocks guarding a small cove. The deep booms were something to hear, as these tree bones were thrown against stone. The tide was dropping, as were the winds, but so close to the end of a fierce blow, we weren’t going to venture down onto the upper sands of the cove. Every now and then a heavier wave would still have enough energy to surge up the beach. Gritty outdoor types we might be, but we weren’t going to risk a sudden foot soaking or worse down on the beach. We’ve got sand, but also plenty of prudence.1278AA79-3601-405F-BC3C-4C575B95C89E

The forecast for the coming long weekend looks rather damp. We will aim to get out, no matter the weather, but if trips are shorter, then we’ll have to head indoors, empty the sand from our shoes, and eat a small chocolate egg (or two!)

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Rain and mist – normal service

It’s good to be back on the coast, and after a lengthy spell of warm and sunny days, rain and mist has returned, most welcome after an unusually dry early spring.0E2FDEC0-44CC-47E9-B77E-4377442F26D3

We’ve been doing our usual rain dance, that is, aiming to get out and about in between the showers, and for the most part we’ve been pretty lucky. We haven’t escaped all the rain – for a while, the Jeep was strangely dog odour free, but it only took a couple of damp days out for the reassuring smell of wet dog to permeate the back seat once again. We drive with the windows down, enough to get a flow of cool fresh air, and low enough that the tip of Scout’s nose sticks out. I’m told it looks very amusing.705B2718-DAFB-47A4-AACE-994D62785F87

The cool days have been rather soothing, and lend a sense of normality and calm after our mad dash about Britain, and after all the pleasantly warm sunshine we’ve been having since returning home. The sun was lovely, but all a bit too soon or too much compared with what is expected. Give it a lengthy rainy period, and we’ll be wishing for warm sun soon enough.1E3840F4-E97B-4C83-9043-DAD4F919C72F

Scout has had fun, reacquainting herself with her familiar haunts, nose down and tail wagging along the trails. Her quick walks usually include a visit to the inner and outer harbours, and these wooden docks are amongst her favourite places. I like the sights, and can stomach the fish and crab aromas, but Scout cannot get enough of the smell-soaked boards. It’s good that there’s something for everyone.

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We’re devoted to the harbour

Earlier today we startled a harbour seal and it splashed in alarm just beneath our feet, and away from the dock, heading backwards almost doing a backstroke, and looking a touch aggrieved before it slipped under the surface. Sorry, seal, we honestly didn’t know you were there.

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Seal playground

So normal service has been resumed, equilibrium re-established, and there’s a lot to be said for that! The photographs for this post were taken over the last two weeks, and were chosen to reflect normal service, or what passes for that out here.

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Smells good

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!