The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

December had been a magical month for us, full of big night skies, clear and starlit, an ever-growing moon pulling the spring tide higher and higher up the beach. However, the crowning glory was the total eclipse of the moon. The conditions were perfect and being the shortest day we did not even have to get up that early. It is hard to describe this phenomenon when the earth’s shadow moves across the face of the moon. Liked dappled sun on a shaded pool our atmosphere played at first on the moon’s face, turning it into a ball of translucent colour before engulfing it completely. As the day breaks the sun bursts into sight, filling the skies in brilliant hues of red and gold, quickly it now tracks westward bathing the seascape in winter colour, merging both heaven and earth, Elie is such a magical place in winter.

Christmas Day

My sister and I sharing it together, I cooked lunch of Christmas fair, with Tim enjoying the change of diet too. Presents exchanged; thankfully no offence was taken as I handed over my present of smelly stuff for Irene to adorn her body with.

Men are from Mars and women from Venus. Presents can sometimes be difficult. Years ago, Dad and I had travelled over to Glasgow on the motorcycle. We visited the Barrows. It was there that we watched an enterprising lad demonstrating the brand new product, a non-stick frying pan to his captivated audience. He was cooking all sorts of food in the magical pan, even without fat, did any food stick to its surface. Wow! Dad was impressed, as I was, and bought one for mum. When we returned home and the pan was offered up as a birthday present, mum was not amused. Alas mum being mum, still managed to burn the food, eggs with crochet edges and beef to sole your boots with. Mum was a past master at weld food, even to the bottom of her new non-stick pan. Father was a martyr to her cooking and single-handed she kept Rennie’s in business throughout the worst of the recession. Sorry a lot of poetic licences there, but the part of buying the pan and mum’s disapproval were real enough.

This story was inspired by a slogan once used by the Salvation Army, and told to me by Captain Yule. My friend on returning from his first trip up to London was beside himself with wonder at all he had seen and told me he had even visited a brothel run by the Salvation Army.

I was down in Soho and went over to where a red lamp was hanging over a door and rang the bell. Well you could have knocked me down with a feather, when a young Salvation Army Officer, in her slinky wee uniform, answered the door.

“Oh! I’m sorry miss, I must have come to the wrong door”. I blurted out, flushed with embarrassment.

“No, no, not at all” the officer assured me, “Come away in. Now before we can proceed, we have to fill in the paperwork” (paperwork and The salvation army is synonymous).

“Can you tell me your name?” She asked.

“Oh, eh, Smith miss, John Smith”

“And are you married or single, John?”

“Oh, married miss”

“Then I’m sorry John, but you see were here for the Needy, not for the Greedy”.

Yes I know it was a rotten joke and an even worse slogan.

Our trip over to see Sleeping Beauty at the Rep in Dundee was a great success. The production was brilliant and the comic timing superb and although we are not supposed to like the wicked witch, we, of course, loved her. A great addition was the use of a harp to accompany the actors. However for me, the favourite was John Buick as Spider King, Glaswegians are such natural comedians.

Television over the festive season, I am total ‘musical-eds out’. Along with some golden oldies like Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you kid”. I even watched the animated version of “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” You know the temperament and facial expressions of the heroine are those of Kristen Scott Thomas, uncanny.

Irene’s naughty cat perched himself, up on a shelf and out of reach of Tim. From here he stretched out a paw and teased poor Tim, forbidding the old boy from having his after-dinner nap.

Blaise’ will do what cats will do,

Play with ball, play with shoe,

Tear the paper from my wall,

Never come when I call,

But when it’s time for his tea,

It’s he who comes to search for me.

Another year in, and still managing to dodge the undertaker. Old Years Night I spent with my sister, it was Irene’s turn to cook and her meal was a traditional homemade steak pie, potatoes and turnip. I have not made a New Years resolution, seemed little point since I’m a spur of the moment kind of a guy and very content with my lot.

The New Year heralded in a new decade. We stood by the sea wall at North Queensferry and watched the magnificent fireworks display from the Forth Rail Bridge. How hopefully we travelled then. Barely a year on and it has all started to unravel.

Who could ever forget the feeling of disbelief as we watched that loop of film on our television screens as the planes crashed, over and over again, headlong into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, or the stuned look on the face of President GW Bush as his aid whispered the news into his ear?

But saddest of all for the world was when the two cowboys, Bush and Blair, strapping on their six-shooters and wearing tarnished white hats, stepped out into the street to Kick-Ass. And set off a chain of reaction that we still live with to this day. Sow the wind and reap a whirlwind.

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