The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

I had cycled as far as Leuchars turned up through the village and out past the guardroom at the old RAF airfield and headed back into Guardbridge. As you come up out of the village you pass a little road that disappears down toward the estuary – I wonder where that goes? It turned out to be someone’s backyard, thankfully without a junkyard dog.

Next diversion came a little closer to St Andrews on the cycle path, a road down to the estuary this time.

Off-roading on a deep dry sandy track is not easy.

When I reached the end of the spit two lads were waist-deep in the waters fishing, I remember thinking, a wee boat would be handy.

One of the lads stopped on seeing me and came out of the water for a blether.

“What are you fishing for” I asked – “Sea bass” I was told and on we blethered, and no there was no Salmond coming into the river, then his answer left me wondering if he ever fished the river itself, or just the sea waters of the estuary.

Pressing on for home, I noticed the maincrop tatties are coming alone fine in the farmer’s field, no flowers on them yet so no indication of verity.

When we joined the Common Market, as it was then, we changed from imperial measurements to European metric. The story went,

“I’ll have a half stane (half a stone was 7 Lbs) of tatties, greengrocer” she said as she came forward to the counter.

“We’re in the Common Market noo hen, it’s kilos,”

“Is that right son, then I’ll have half a stane of Kilos then.”

It’s the way I tell them.

I have given up on Boadicea and the warrior queens, to much myth and legion, I was struggling with this book from the start. However, Antonia Fraser’s book Mary Queen of Scots has inspired me from the first page. I have read many books about Mary, and know much about her time when she left France and returned to Scotland, the difference, Antonia starts at the beginning and followed her all the way to France, covering extensively the years she spent there. This was of course what made her the woman she would become.

I fell in love with the French countryside, from my very first visit there, in particular the Loire Valley, I had planned to move to France on retirement, a failed dream alas, life got in my way. Constantly, over the year, I have been drawn back there. During those times I have visited many of the large hunting lodges of France – the young Mary’s playground growing up there. Mary was an accomplished horsemanship and love to hunt with hawks. I’m sure I will return someday to the Loire Valley, and next time I will be armed with much more knowledgeable information of Mary’s life there.

Strange that I should be booked to going to Falkland Palace next week, a place the young Queen Mary loved, she said it reminded her of France and the Loire Valley, then again the landscape of Fife would have been much different in those days.

Mary was unfortunate to be born at the wrong time in history, coming to Scotland from a totally different society, now queen over a land that was not only divided along religious lines but was something akin to Afghanistan today. A land lorded over by ruthless warlords, who squabbled amongst themselves for a bigger slice of the cake. And Mary, like my sister, had a poor taste in men.

Keep safe.

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