The sixth post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.
Sunny good times of the past get us through dreary Januaries of the present. Today, the focus is on Stonehaven Harbor on the Scottish coast.
It was a glorious August Saturday when two colleagues and I happily found ourselves in Aberdeenshire’s picturesque Stonehaven Harbor, giddy from a trip to nearby Dunnottar Castle. The castle is the subject of a future post, so I’ll just share one photo here to whet your appetite.
Glorious, isn’t it?
The nearest town to Dunnottar Castle is Stonehaven, and the harborside is delightful. Enjoy these memories with me.
The street along the harbor is shared by pedestrians, cars and dogs and we even saw a dad pulling a small boat on a trailer while his sons pushed, no one moving with a sense of urgency.
Pub customers took their beers outside to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies on that August Saturday. I took out my camera and started shutter-bugging. I had just learned from Ray of The Storyteller blog how to ask permission to take a photo with a glance and a nod, which I did. (Thanks, Ray, it worked!)
This gentleman reminded me so much of beach locals on the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas where I grew up. Tanned, laid back, slightly scruffy, reveling in the coastal, outdoorsy life, not caring at all what the rest of the world thinks, marching to his own drummer. He was really nice and somewhat bemused by my interest and intent to put him in the blog, as were the young ladies he had stationed himself beside.
The scenery and people-watching is fantastic at Stonehaven Harbor. And like everywhere else in Scotland, there are flowers, flowers and more flowers, and benches for enjoying the view.
If you find yourself in Scotland’s Aberdeenshire region, don’t miss Stonehaven. The memories you make will linger long afterward, and warm you up on a cold January day.
The Backstory for the Series
If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.
I’m in a birdy mood! Yesterday’s post had a haiku and a variety of our feathered friends. Today, I’m sharing the social networking of just one flock of birds who fascinated me on a recent trip to Scotland’s Aberdeenshire region.
The ruins of Dunnotar Castle in Stonehaven are surrounded by nature’s beauty: the sea, fields of heather dancing in the wind, gorgeous grain meadows and huge open skies. I’ve got a lot more to show you from the castle, but today, it’s just about that flock of fun little birds.
They swooped in en masse and settled on tall grasses, chirping and squawking. It seemed like they were talking.
I got too close and scared them, so they moved their party to the tree.
Aren’t they marvelous?
I’ve done my homework trying to identify the species who gave me so much pleasure that afternoon, and I’m not quite sure…I think they are twites, but I look to my Scottish readers to correct me.
And now I see an easy haiku in this:
a treasure trove of twites in a tree near the sea in Aberdeenshire
I like them. They remind me of where I grew up, in Gilchrist, Texas on the Bolivar Peninsula. Where nothing ever happened, and yet every day was interesting and different. We had lots of gulls.
Join me in gull-watching, in Aberdeen, mostly in the harbor. Just for a few minutes. Hear them squawking and cawing, and smell the sea air. Feel the peace seeping through your soul as the staccato screech of the gulls is accompanied by the soothing sounds of the waves. A gull haiku:
gulls soaring, screeching pulling me home to the sea you should come with me
bright lights pop and fly sparkly designs light the sky memories float by
In Edinburgh for business this week, my colleagues and I were delighted to learn that fireworks were on the Monday night menu for the closing ceremony of the Edinburgh International Festival. This month-long celebration has been a thing since 1948.
After dinner in a traditional Scottish restaurant, we stood in the street and watched the fireworks, awestruck. For me, many memories floated by as I stood transfixed. Memories of fireworks and family in times past:
A cousin’s birthday party on the beach, when July 4th parent-sponsored fireworks started a brush fire, and all the able-bodied men in a 20-mile radius showed up, the eager, macho and beer-fueled volunteer fire departments of three tiny unincorporated towns. It was all rather exciting to us kids, and anticlimactic for the adults. It was blamed on a teenaged girl who pointed a bottle rocket the wrong way, but I had my doubts even then. Girls usually weren’t allowed anywhere near the bottle rockets…I’m just sayin’.
About 25 years later, another July 4th, this time with my 8 year-old son, just the two of us in our pajamas in the car, having decided at the last minute to catch the city’s show. We parked on the side of the road and watched from the car windows, singing The Rainbow Connection (from the Muppet Movie), changing to words to include family members and pets. Good times.
New Year’s Eve of 2014, in Breckenridge, Colorado, in a brutally cold -19F / -28C. There was a parade of skiers with red torches on their poles down the mountain in the early evening, and then fireworks later. Yes, I said -19 degrees – you can see it there on the car thermometer! It was bitter-bitter-bitterly cold, but also breathtaking and spectacular. And memorable.
Back to the present, last night in Edinburgh. The fireworks were launched just behind Edinburgh Castle, on the far side from our hotel. Here’s the view of the castle from the hotel, in the daylight.
When we thought the fireworks were over, we said our good nights and retired to our rooms, but lo and behold, the booms and sparkles started up again. I was lucky to catch the rest of it from my window.
Business trip serendipity. Memories. Good times. Edinburgh rocks.
sometimes you just know that the other creature knows you’re from the same tribe
This scruffy little tough guy is a Scottish charmer who knows a cat person when he sees one. An old Aberdonian tomcat who roams the streets of tiny (and also charming) Footdee, he has a whole Facebook group talking about him and worrying over his welfare. He patrols Footdee pretending to be a stray to collect treats and attention, but is very much loved and cared for by his owner-person. Completely ignoring my non-cat-loving colleagues, Scruffy sauntered up to me tonight in Footdee (pronounced “Fittie” by the locals) and circled my legs, doing the “doncha love me” figure 8 cat-dance. Of course he got a chin-scratching, head-stroking, scruff-ruffling petting session. He had me pegged as a cat person from the moment he sniffed me.
We’re from the same tribe, Scruffy and me, and we know it.
More on “Fittie” later – it rocks! (It’s a tiny town worthy of Scruffy.)
It’s National Farmers Market Week and I promised to share, so I’m unearthing more farmers market memories. Today, we’re in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Just last summer, I had this amazing experience in Edinburgh. Only a few weeks after my Dad died, I was on a European business trip which required a weekend stay-over, and the location happened to be Edinburgh. Lucky me. In a hotel that looked out to Edinburgh Castle. Double-lucky me!
My colleagues and I did touristy things together on Saturday morning, including a macabre underground ghost tour that taught us all about how the Scots of way back handled the plague, and then we split up, some of them headed out to castles in the distance, some of them shopping, and me – just wandering around and thinking about Dad.
Getting back to the hotel and in desperate need of a nap, I was amazed to learn that the city’s month-long music festival had taken up residence right outside my hotel, the street blocked off at both ends to hold three stages and various food and drink vendors.
Score! I shucked off my inclination for a nap like a new year’s resolution on Jan. 3 and flung myself headlong into the crowd.
Have you ever heard live jazz, in Scotland, in the shadow of a castle? I hadn’t … wow, what an in-the-moment experience.
It was the end of the performances for the day, sadly. The first – and last – tune I heard was, unbelievably, When the Saints Go Marching In.
Here’s a little bit of video of that performance.
Oh. My. Gosh.
The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity. The simple, awesome experience of enjoying delightful live music with an appreciative crowd.
Saints is a tune that is important in my family. My Mom always loved the New Orleans tradition of the second line parade after funerals, that lively and joyful conclusion after the pre-funeral dirges. We made sure it happened just that way after her funeral; I will always be grateful to my friend / ex-husband for bringing his whole jazz band and playing their hearts out in her memory. Joy in sorrow, joy in sorrow.
Before this Scotland trip, I had been at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, when Dad was still alive. I had happily heard When the Saints Go Marching In about 10 times over a long weekend, including once by the legendary Herb Alpert. OMG, he is awesome! Dad and I texted each other during the Herb Alpert performance at Jazz Fest, when the Grill-Meister and I were awestruck at how vibrant he was at 80-something; Dad said, ‘your mother and I saw him ’round about 1965. Good times.” (Another story for another day.)
Just three weeks prior to the Edinburgh trip, the venerable Saints tune was the joyful conclusion at my Dad’s funeral, just like it had been at my Mom’s 17 years earlier. Just like it will be at mine when it’s my time to go. I’m partial to that song, you might say. 🎶🎶🎶🎶 “O Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”
So, to be in Scotland on a business trip and just stumble into a live performance of Saintswas almost too much.
The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity.
I felt Dad’s presence on a grand scale, and my heart grew too big for my body, just like the Grinch’s when he saw that Whoville would still have Christmas without presents and food. It was a transcendent experience.
Back to the the Farmers Market
I haven’t forgotten, truly I haven’t – this post is supposed to be about the Edinburgh farmers market. My journey there tonight took place via music and reminiscence.
As I said, I hit the ground at the music festival at the tail end of the performances. Sigh. I jammed and jazzed to Saints, but then, sadly, the musicians began to break down their gigs and pack up. I was just getting started! I noticed that there was a farmers market on the other end of the street … hmmm. Curses, is it about to close, too?!!?But no, the stalwart vendors didn’t ‘up and leave’ when the music was over; they were on their regular Saturday market schedule.
And what a lovely market it was. It had everything: produce, cheese, a bridal couple (he wore a kilt), dogs galore, arepas, paella, olives, breads, leather goods…a plethora of products to peruse while people-watching.
I’ll be in Edinburgh again soon, and will likely fall more deeply in love with it. Watch this space!
Earlier this week, I posted about my “snack food” vs. “junk food” epiphany in Aberdeen, in which I learned that I was a hypocrite during a break in a meeting.
What I neglected to do was to show you the Aberdeen I saw outside the window in that meeting.
I really, really like Aberdeen and want to share it with you, so here’s the picture I took from the window in the office building where our meeting was held.
And here’s another, from close by.
Aberdeen – ain’t she beautiful? Or, in Doric, “Ain’t she stotter?”
Doric is the awesome traditional language of Aberdeen. I wish I had an awesome traditional language.
You’ll keep hearing about Aberdeen on these pages. I feel a kinship with it, which might be wishful thinking, or might have some roots in truth. My maiden name is Harvell, and my Dad always said we had English and “Scotch-Irish” heritage. Google tells me that the Harvell name came to England when the Normans did, way back in ’66, and that we may be related to the Hervies and de Hervis of Aberdeenshire and other parts of Scotland. I hope so! Or, “ah hope sae.”
” Aberdeen, ae day ah ll be back tae bide a while.”
For more Aberdeen musings from the Glover Gardens archives: