Hunting for coal, coats and castles: that's what we've been doing.
Our neighbour, Netta, piled us into her car one day and we set off for the Kingdom of Fife. Our destination was the home of newly retired friends, Tom and Jenny, in Newmills. On the way we stopped to visit the old village of Culross, where we greeted Scottish dumpies (a.k.a. chooks in Australia) in the garden of the palace there. Then on to Newmills.
Culross Palace, a sixteenth-century merchant’s house
Newmills looks out over the heads of wading birds to the Firth of Forth and beyond to the power stations on the other side. Just inland is woodland where we walked through snowdrops, spotting a buzzard. We returned by the beach and redshanks. This brings us to the coal. Being a region of coal, bits of the stuff wash up on the beach. We wandered, chatting, with eyes glued to the sand (when not distracted by redshanks) picking up black lumps, then peering at each one and gauging its weight. Slate got tossed away, coal got tossed into the bag. Beats open-cut mining.
Chris enjoyed a spot of sleuthing this month. Her family has an antique musical box left to them in the 1960s by close friends of her mother. Thanks to sister Helen’s memory of being told it originated from Penllyn Castle, Chris was able to track down not only the castle but also the family of her mother's friends, still in Penllyn. A fascinating phone conversation and an invitation to visit ensued. This Welsh village and castle is now on our list of places of visit. It even provided the set for an episode of Dr Who. Google “Penllyn Castle” for more.
Neither of us likes shopping for clothes much, as you may have noticed. Do you remember Geoff's coat with the patch of a cat on the sleeve? It finally announced it needed to retire. So followed a quest that took on epic proportions for a new summer travel coat. First a charity-shop crawl through Newington and Morningside. We should explain that Edinburgh specializes in charity shops. They support research into hearts, kidneys, cancer, dementia, the work of hospices and aid agencies, the training of dogs for the deaf as well as the blind and the treatment of underprivileged pets. Their business is booming in these days of recession. But they didn't have the right coat. Next we tried the shops of Princes Street. Still no luck but a helpful salesperson did tell us about the shopping malls of Livingston, a town between Edinburgh and Glasgow. A day excursion by bus through the snow followed and we found ourselves in a huge shopping complex reminiscent of contemporary Hong Kong. This shopping paradise dwarfs the town that hosts it. Still our quest was fruitless. Mostly the pockets were all wrong. But we did snap up a new suitcase (to replace one that now has a crack beyond repair), a red polo fleece for Chris and a shirt for Geoff. Finally we got modern and resorted to the internet. Found it! Geoff is now sporting a dark navy blue cotton jacket with lots of pockets in the right places, delivered to the door. On-line clothes shopping—another new experience (for us anyway).
Walking the Pentland Hills
The new coat had a couple of outings when the thermometer reached the dizzy heights of 14 degrees the week before last and we were tempted outdoors for a day excursion or two. The Pentland Hills behind Edinburgh are within striking distance of the local buses. It was lovely walking around the reservoirs there in sight of the moors. A hen harrier being mobbed by crows in the fields became our new bird of the month. Flocks of curlews flew overhead.
Another sunny day we followed the Braid Burn and then climbed Blackford Hill to stunning panoramic views of the city, now so familiar we can pick out our house and other landmarks of note.
The view of our house (well, Anne and Robin's house) and Arthur's Seat from Blackford Hill
But chilly northerly winds returned and the trusty Rainbird coats take pride of place again. Spring is definitely here, though. Sparrows are nesting in the bird box in the garden. Fulmars are back on Salisbury Crags. Heather and daffodils are in full bloom and bluebells are making their appearance.
Heather and reeds at Duddingston Loch, walking distance from home
On 23 March a text in the wee hours of the morning heralded the arrival of Isaac Michael Dorman in Brisbane, our twentieth great-nephew/niece. May he enjoy many happy years of quests and discovery.