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East Neuk musings: a rolling post.

I have become very lazy in the holiday blog post department. You’ve missed Berlin, Wissant in France and other destinations. I fear I am a perfectionist, an idealist. I had many ideas for a post on our Berlin holiday which I might yet go back to. I had the ideas but never quite put them into words. One of the reasons I never finished my PhD….that is a whole other story.

So here I am, back in the East Neuk, Fife, Scotland. We have been many times and you can find earlier musings here-

Of cabbages and kings- views from the East Neuk.

and here

oh and here..

and here and

here    If you click on the link you will notice that is Anstruther 2015 part 1. There was no part 2 or 3 or arty stuff. So instead of composing the perfect post in my mind and then failing to find the right words to go with the right words I will create a rolling post, adding bits each day, publishing, editing on line. I will notify changes via my twitter account but you could subscribe and add comments to the post of course.

While we are here I will also have a go at the Slow Food Scotland  50mile challenge and hope to add some recipes.

And maybe at the end of it, there will be a worthwhile or at least interesting post.

Meanwhile- a few of the arty photos I promised you back in 2015.

4-sea art (6)7- Elie rock


2-sunset (6)


See what you missed?

Coming here this time we crossed the new Forth Bridge. There are plenty of splendid photos of the bridge on line. I failed to capture the majesty of the span as we crossed and in fact the crossing itself is not that special.


Better seen from afar  than on. Plus. Are my photos any good?

I will stand in the garden and listen to the sea as it rolls away from the shore and think of many things.



Messages from Europe: Postcard/collages 1974/75

After we left school, a friend and I spent 6 months travelling around Europe. Nowadays it would be called a gap-year. Then, it was a road trip.

We picked grapes,busked and handed out flyers for dodgy nightclubs. Most notably, we worked nights cleaning at NATO HQ. (We were offered a job at EU parliament but it didn’t pay as well…)

During this trip I made some postcard collages some of which I have just rediscoverd.



Bruxelles. Molenbeek has of course become infamous but in 1974 it is where my great uncle and aunt lived and had an allotment. We pitched up our tent there and slept during the day as we worked nights at Nato. We would come home at 7.00am and have a beer.. I have no idea why I included  sac de paie….


Paris. Over-priced drinks (we fell for it), sleeping in the rain in a park outside the Gare du Nord, camping in the Bois de Boulogne. It was francs then and Frank. The year that Zappa did not visit uk after Albert Hall case. Live at Roxy Tour. Magnificent fun. And where is the Mona Lisa? We were in our Dada phase so it would have been the Duchamp version…


Italy.  I can’t comment much on this except everything seemed to be free! Memories include heating cans of ravioli in hotel sink- fine dining.


Spain. Still under Franco. But still a British colony in parts. Should have had a separate Cataloniac card. It was forbidden to speak Catalan. We were chased by youths for speaking to local girls… another story. Perhaps a sound collage.


Zurich. Tidy, clean. An incredible vending machine beneath the train station. And the home of Dada.

I made more but these are lost. They say something but not all. Reminders of stories I have.

Brentford v Derby 2017: a moan-in from Møn.


It was to be our last evening in Denmark after a week in Copenhagen and the island of Møn. We were here at the invitation of Keld and his partner and we were having a great time despite the changeable weather.

Keld is a big Derby fan (@keld100) and it was following the Rams that had brought us all together. So it is not surprising that on that last Friday of our holidays we decided to get onto Ramsplayer, with @derbycounty on twitter to follow the game. I’d envisaged- sitting in the sun, sharing our thoughts with the other #worldwiderams following across the globe, wondering if we could hold onto our lead……

None of that happened of course. (No, I am not blaming the club for the weather……)

It must have been a desolate, desperate experience for the Rams fans who traveled to the game but spare a thought to for those of us following from afar…..

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a contributor to @derbycounty, a dcfc fans account which provides commentary on Rams games. This was started before the Derby Telegraph, radio Derby and dcfc official used twitter in any meaningful way. We have 11,974 followers and a regular group of followers who actively take part in tweeting and reacting to the game. It’s like a small group of friends, in locations across the world, who can nevertheless have a banter with fellow fans.

On Friday, as well as Keld and I in Denmark, there were fans following the game in Ireland, Brisbane, Perth, USA….just think of some of those time zones!

Then the game started. Capitulation. Keld and I are of the same opinion; you should not do down the team during the match, even on twitter. But that left us with nothing to say. There was very little commentary because there was nothing much to comment on. The relative silence on twitter (apart from the sack Rowett,  “x” not fit to wear the shirt comments) spoke volumes.

I will soon be getting ready to go to the pub and then, with a heavy heart, onto Pride Park. Fan groups are already there, bedecking the ground with flags and displays. And my thoughts go to those fans like Keld, dotted around the globe, who will be getting ready to follow the game in lots of different ways, locations and situations.

I hope the players spare them a thought too.



Copenhagen: yes, I get on a bike.

In yesterday’s post (here) I boldly stated that “I think even I could cycle in Copenhagen.” Our host suggested we should try this theory out so today we tried out the City electric bikes network, Bycyklen.


These electric bikes can be found and left at over 100 locations around the city.  You need to get an account and we chose the pay as you go scheme which allowed 2 users per account and costs 30 krone an hour. (+/- £3.40)



As you can see, the bikes come complete with many useful gizmos though my 2 colleagues had to spend some time discussing the finer points…


but we eventually got underway. The bikes are very heavy which is fine as we are not off racing any where, and it takes a while to get used to the electric motor kicking in.

As I have said, I’m not a natural bike rider but I enjoy it when I do. Normally the idea of cycling in a major city would scare me but I have seen over the last two days that all road users seem to respect each other and their right to get about.

We started out on one of the “green routes”-


but soon got to crossing main roads. It amazed me how quickly I got used to the idea that cars and lorries would readily give way and the whole experience was exhilarating. The down side of course is it isn’t so easy to stop and take pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it….

Event free we got to Frederiksberg where we parked the bikes and walked round the park.


After our stroll we picked up the bikes again and cycled to the Nørrebro district- a part of the city which is evolving and contains a mix of old residents, students and hipsters and newer migrants. An area guide books might describe as “vibrant.” P1000341

(sorry, not the best picture to illustrate the point but…)

A light lunch-


then it seemed rude not to call in on the local brewery-




A very agreeable drink and occasion with very helpful staff.

Onto the lakes which we hadn’t know existed until Keld took us there.

P1000342These lakes divide the Nørrebo  district from central Copenhagen. We decided not to join the frantic bike commute-


and got the bus and the S train home instead.

I would recommend cycling in Copenhagen even if, like me, you are a rank amateur.


Previous posts on Copenhagen: Arrival  Re: Cycling


Copenhagen re cycling: My next set of thoughts.

As I indicated yesterday, (see post here) it would be impossible to write about a visit to Copenhagen without writing about cycling.  I am not a regular cyclists and frankly do not have the nerve to cycle around Derby. But I think even I could cycle in Copenhagen. As I pointed out yesterday, the cycle paths are wide and separated from the main road by a kerb-


this allows plenty of wobble room. The junctions are clearly shown-


and as far as I can tell, motorists respect cyclists as fellow road users.

And it is easy to get onto the local  S trains as there are separate carriages on each train-


and plenty of space.


And if you worry about getting your bike up the stairs at the station, here’s the solution.


When I see such simple solutions, and an integrated approach like this, I wonder why we don’t seem able to do things like this in England. Is there something about our character or perhaps our politics? I don’t know and perhaps I am just doing us down…



At the bottom of our flats were we are staying there are communal bins: paper, glass, plastic, cardboard,  batteries, garden and domestic. Making recycling, like cycling, easy. Oh and there are the bikes too, unlocked.

And I forgot to mention the tower, The Round Tower.


This 35m tower has no steps-


and apparently hosts the occasional cycle race. Perhaps it makes up for the unchallenging cycling in the city…

Copenhagen arrival- a short post.

We arrived in Copenhagen on Saturday 8th April in time to discover that the mighty Rams had beaten Birmingham 2-1. We would have arrived in time to follow the match but for a 1 1/2 hr delay to our flight, apparently due to air control problems in France.

The Rams victory is significant for various reasons but I mention it here because we are in Copenhagen as guests of  Danish Derby County fan Keld aka @keld100 . Keld is a regular contributor to the @derbycounty  match day commentary and part of the world wide rams who get together on match days via twitter. He has been over to Derby to a couple of games at Pride Park and we met up for drinks. Subsequently he and his wife were based at our house for a week during their extended visit to the UK. Time for us to pay a return visit.

I intend doing a full post on my return but first a few, random thoughts.

This and subsequent posts will feature bicycles. Lots of them-P1000211

Apparently, Copenhagen has over taken Amsterdam as the most cycle friendly city. One of the reasons might be the recent increase in cycle lane safety


That is the standard width of the cycle lane and other than at junctions, there is also a kerb between cycle lane and road. More on cycling and public transport in detailed blog post…

Ok, derby City Council. About the Guildhall Market…



How about it? Let’s get our act together to create a proper food hall. With bits of this too-P1000254.JPG

It is of course unfair to compare Derby with the capital city of Denmark but I suspect we will carry on doing so for the next couple of days before we move on to Møn….

We are also, inevitably talking about brexit and Stokholm.


In this very European and self confident city I feel very much the Little Englander. And on terrorism and security after the Stockholm attack? I asked Keld if I needed to take my passport as means of identity with me as we went out to celebrate the Rams win. No, of course not.

See my next post- Copenhagen- Re:cycling here


Holiday in Berlin- Brussels stop over.

I hadn’t intended writing about our Brussels stop over in this series of posts on our rail trip to Berlin. The events of this weekend however changes things.

I stated on twitter that I was saddened by the lockdown in Brussels and I was asked why…

I was born in Brussels but never lived there. To me Brussels was a holidays. A stop over with my Gran before we travelled on for a 4 week stay in the Ardennes. I have an old postcard some where of the old Place de Brouckere pre tram. Where we waited for trams, saw Dr Zhivago (and, yes, it was cold)


The trams went underground and now the cars are going too.. We stayed at the Metropole

and sat at the terrace drinking beer.The next morning, we walked down the Boulevard AnspachSAM_5898

Street society… And had breakfast at the Grand Place


The Grand Place, where my mum and dad got married.Which is currently in lock down. So yes, I think it is sad that this city, my place of birth, is in lockdown.  Molenbeek for me is summers, picking wild strawberries from the allotment. Here is a story of a Christmas tree

.Later, as a teenager, it was where we pitched a tent and worked nights at Nato during a year off before university. Working nights, we lived the weekends at night,


I remember coming here at night and listening to Frank Zappa whilst drinking a Stella or two..Another reason I am saddened by Brussels lockdown…

I know all the arguments- that we we should care about the quality of life and the deaths of all across the world. I have followed and retweeted events in many countries since the Arab Spring.

That doesn’t stop me from feeling sad that my  birth place is in lock down  does it?



Holiday in Berlin. 1- The rail trip.

SAM_5647            SAM_5709

We had decided in early Summer that we wanted to visit Berlin and we determined that we would do this during October half-term. For some reason though, we decided we would only do this if we could travel by train. There is something very different between landing somewhere and arriving somewhere. Something about putting the time and effort into the travel, glimpsing people’s lives and environment through snatched pictures through the window.

(Perhaps my most memorable rail trip was as a teenager, travelling overnight from Franco’s Madrid to revolutionary Lisbon….)

After some research, and consulting regular euro rail travellers, I headed to the Deutsche Bahn website. I would recommend this site to anyone travelling from UK to anywhere in Germany. It is easy to use, very flexible and easy to find the bargain tickets. The ones to look out for are the London-Spezial tickets- these include the Eurostar from London, meaning you only have to book the one ticket.



That’s 127 euros out (about £90.00) and 227 euros return (about £162)- we could have had a cheaper return but we wanted a few hours in Brussels. The price seemed right to us (that’s for the 2 of us btw) though we still had to add the fare from Derby to London- more of that later.

Stage 1 Derby to London.

The train was crowded and included several people travelling for the Rugby World Cup final who hadn’t reserved their seats. Chaos ensued and it took awhile for things to settle down and find seats. Meanwhile the extensive 1st class carriages were relatively empty….. Otherwise the journey was uneventful….

Stage 2 London to Brussels.


I’m always impressed by St.Pancras station and proud of it’s links to Derby. Increasingly however it feels like a luxury shopping mall with station attached.

We were a bit concerned as to how we would get through the Eurostar barriers as DB had only issued one ticket for the two of us but the staff are clearly used to DB tickets and we went through a staffed barrier. Why the had to print out two boarding passes I don’t know…

The departure lounge was busy but not full;  mainly French and Belgians returning home..


On rail trips like this, I am an inveterate starer out of the window. H on the otherhand got her Kindle out at the earliest opportunity…

22312575618_c64fdcd183_m though to be fair, she did look out for more interesting views…

The most depressing sights during this leg of the journey are the rows of additional fences and barbed wire being erected, protecting our island from the “swarms.” How scared are we that we have to build these things? And I think what it might be like if we withdraw from the EU, from the continent with which we have so much in common…


We arrive at the Gare du Midi, Bruxelles, home of Tintin and my place of birth. I have not been back in Brussels for a while but, despite all the changes, it is a place where I feel at ease, at home…

We stay the night in a nondescript chain hotel whose main advantage is that it is 10 minutes walk to the station for our 6.25 am train in the morning.. Breakfast is a Belgian pastry and a proper coffee at the station.

Stage 3. Brussels to Cologne.

With hindsight, we might have carried onto Cologne before having a stopover on the way out. We still have a way to go to Berlin- the rail trip makes you understand just how far East Berlin is….

SAM_5659  The train arrives. The least crowded train so far..SAM_5662

The train is spacious- the luggage racks over the seats actually accommodate…luggage…SAM_5664

These carriages are built by Bombardier… if only they used the same specifications when building carriages for UK use…

It doesn’t take long to travel across Belgium to Aachen- memories of a previous visit there, as a teenager with long hair, being tormented -and then being bought drinks- by a group of Belgian soldiers on national service. Borders cannot be discerned by looking out of the window. The landscape merges, blends and then becomes different.


These wires transport us across the landscapes… linking towns and cities…

SAM_5690    Cologne Station in the mid morning autumnal sun. A brief stop and a platform change for the final leg..

Stage 4. Cologne to Berlin.

The longest stage and the one were we move through different zones…


SAM_5692More crowded but no less spacious.

Across on the next platform, commuters are boarding their double-decker regional train..


The journey from Cologne to Berlin is long. Plenty of thinking time. Different landscapes, history.  Autumn..

Crossing the Rhine at Cologne…SAM_5697

Staring out of the window at the landscapes, the autumn colours.. day dreaming now….

  • SAM_5698 Is this where the pied Piper stole the children? (No.) SAM_5704There was a Treaty of Westphalia wasn’t there? (Yes) What was it about… research when I get back….

And then, almost suddenly, but after so much time, we arrive..


I hope I have conveyed some sense of journey, of time taken to arrive….

Next up- Berlin: City of layers, echoes and trompe d’oeil….

Anstruther 2015 Part 1

5-gull (2)

This is the first Easter holiday we won’t be going away since forever. One of the many reasons is that, frankly, we couldn’t wait and went away during the February half- term instead. We went back to our favourite haunt, Anstruther where we have been during October half term (and last year, at Easter) for many a year. Previous Anstruther posts include:

  Postcard from Anstruther 1

 Postcard from Anstruther 2

Postcard from Anstruther 3  and

 Of Cabbages and Kings

I’m going to pick out a few themes and thoughts from our holidays rather than give an “and here we are on our holidays” type blog….

Weather…. is always hit and miss on a UK holiday  but to be honest, the only time we have had bad weather in Anstruther was during October and then it was frankly dramatic… (October 2011 )OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year we weren’t sure what to expect as it had recently been snowing. Our stop on the journey up was at the wonderful Tebay services and hotel and the snow was still piled up on the sides of the car park-

1-TebaySnow still lingered on the hills as we drove further north-

2-road to Scotland3and this must be the first time we have crossed the Forth Bridge without really seeing it-

2-forth Bridge2

But it soon cleared up- and we only had 1 day of gloomy weather which we spent in the relatively urban St Andrews (more anon…

co2-road to Scotland2Sunrises and sunsets…

Our cottage was on a rocky beach looking out to the Isle of May with Anstruther Harbour to our right. We saw some glorious sunrises and sunsets and hopefully I caught the magic of some of these in these photos-

Sunrise:7- sunrise3-morning sun

Sunsets….2-sunset (4)2-sunset (6)2-sunset (7)(Lack of ) mussels

It has always disappointed me that I have never found a good bed of mussels to harvest and cook, along this stretch of the East Neuk. Collecting mussels has always been a highlight of our holidays in Wales (we will be back!) especially Fishguard. You can read my mussel collecting Fishguard post here.  Finally I found some along the coast at Elie….7- Elie mussels….but I reckon I might have to wait awhile….Actually it is probably a good thing I didn’t find any as, at the end of the walk from Elie to Leven, I saw this sign:-

7- mussels warningMy record for never having been poisoned on my forages might well have gone…

The Dreel

5-Dreel walk (3)The Dreel is a river that flows into the estuary at Anstruther and there is a pleasant, short walk along it’s banks until you reach an estate- perfect stroll while my partner had her nails done (the amount of local gossip and information H picked up from her brief session was priceless….) Anyway

5-Dreel walk (5)

5-Dreel walk (5)

5-Dreel walk (2)

That scarecrow can also be seen from the riverside terrace of The Dreel Tavern, by far the best of many pubs in Anstruther..

5-Dreel pub

……which seems a good place to end part 1…. Cheers

7- beer

(in part 2…. gulls, rocks and arty stuff..)

Courgettes: a European problem.

On the first day of our holiday in the Limousin, France, we were innocently shopping in the local village when a woman parked up her van and hailed us. She brought out two large courgettes and came over, pleading with us to take the courgettes-nearly marrow-sized- as she had had enough of the things. Apparently her freezer was full of variously prepared courgettes and she could take it no more.

I couldn’t think of a polite way of refusing, so we took the courgettes off her hands.

We did what we could in the limited confines of a holiday cottage but we still only managed to get through half of one courgette. We even tried to pass one off to the owners of our cottage but they too had a glut.

In the back of my mind I was thinking of our own courgette plants in Derby and, knowing that our house guest would probably not be harvesting our crops, I feared the worst.

And I was right to-


This is the crop I came back to… Now at this stage they are too watery to do much with so I will have a goat making some soup.

But the incident reminded me of the good old EEC days when we were regularly (or so it seemed) regaled with stories of European food mountains; mainly milk and butter. But we should now revive the mountains and add a courgette mountain. I’m sure some of British papers could find a way of blaming faceless EU bureaucrats for the excess of courgettes- or would that be making a mountain out of a, well, pile of courgettes?

More posts on our French holiday to come.