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07-04-2011 – St. Andrews, Scotland

Southern Sky Adventures: 07-04-2011 – St. Andrews, Scotland

Monday, July 4, 2011

This spot just does not get old, my friends, does not get old at all. Spent the last 4 days and 3 nights with my friends, the Adam family, in and around St. Andrews, Edinburgh and at their farmhouse outside of Dundee. On the way out of the airport now and headed back to Amsterdam but not after a long weekend filled with some exceptional weather (80 degrees and all sunshine – a bit of a rarity in this part of the world. Gordon dropped me off at the Leuchars train station about an house ago and here I wait a short while at the Edinburgh airport.

Scotland has always proven to be an interesting spot for me as the Scots, as a people, to me have quite an attractive personality and openness. Whether it be in a local pub or at the railway station, friend or stranger, the folks just tend to be a bit of a good breed.

This weekend did not disappoint as yet another myriad of good times and good companionship was enjoyed. From the local small pub, the Craigton Inn, outside Dundee in the Angus frequented by the local farming community to the golf to the day spent on the farm – all proved to be more than worth the trip.

Gordon and Leeby claim the mantle to have brought three youngsters into this world – Flora, but a few weeks removed from her 12th birthday, Charlie, 10 and Grace, 7. Gordon took the time to pick me up from the Edinburgh airport on Friday morning and we then took a short drive into the small village of Falkland where we broke bread in a local pub and indulged on finely prepared dish of haddock and chips, crushed peas and a pint of local brew.

Cape TownThe attractiveness of these small villages is always of great appeal to me and this one fit the bill in its consistency of narrow curved streets and architecture a few hundred years old. For the Americans, these ventures into such spots is a glimpse through a prism of time of which we are not accustomed in our newly formed nation. We make museums out of buildings over 100 years old while the rest of Europe considers a building three times as old to be a new structure.
The food fare was good. Fish and chips is a staple dish in my diet in South Africa as the formation of this dish in the African continent was generated from its European settlers (and more specifically those from Britain) a few hundred years back. This dish, while simply, can be of great enjoyment and it is curious to me why its popularity here in the UK and in South Africa has not in turn made it a regularly seen option up and down the coasts of the US.As a consumer base, Americans can and will consume most any friend food when well prepared (or poorly prepared for that matter) and the meal of fish and chips would fit the bill for us.

After the gut stuffer, Gordon took me across the street to a tour of a past domicile of the Crown, Falkland Palace. This structure was built originally in the 12th Century and was later expanded to include an additional building where over the next few hundred years various kings and queens of England would come, often for hunting the local deer population. Mary Queen of Scots (16th Century) came here on many occasions and enjoyed a game of tennis here on what is said to be the oldest tennis court in the world at more than 450 years of age.
The grounds were impeccably maintained and if I had not been with my host I may well have laid down my head for an hour of shut eye given the attractiveness of the green grass and the scarcity of any patrons.

After an hour’s walk about the palace and grounds of prior kings and queens Gordon drove me over to his mother’s house which also houses his office and a staff of two ladies in St. Andrews. Gordon’s mother, Sheila, just celebrated her 80th birthday complete with 4 children, 4 children in law and 11 grandchildren and 2 siblings. She’s a fit woman of 80 and I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2000 when St. Andrews hosted the British Open. Sheila allowed all her family and too many of Gordon’s friends over for a multi day golf viewing and golf playing extravaganza. Between family and friends she hosted enough of us such that a few of us ended up sleeping in tents in the pasture nearby her horses. That foray was my first into Scotland with Gordon but has not proven to be the last. Follow up visits in 2005 for another Open Championship at St. Andrews, 2007 for the Open at Carnoustie and subsequent visits in 2009, 2010 and now this year have allowed me the luxury of frequent glimpses into the Scottish people, 5 million strong.

Sheila is a real woman of interest in her own right. Her father worked for the British East India Company and was stationed in India where Sheila was born in 1931. Her father managed a tea farming operation so the similarities between Gordon’s mother and mine (born in Indonesia to my grandfather who worked for the Dutch East India Company) are of consequence to me. Further stories of note to me include the fact that Sheila and her family were on leave from India and on the way back to Scotland for a break via ship when the Germans were pushing heavily towards Paris in 1940. She and her family barely escaped the invaders and had to stuff themselves onto to ship headed for Scotland but days before the Germans reached Paris. Sheila’s grandfather fought at the battle of Gallipoli in WWI, lying about his age (15) so as to gain entrance to the army. Needless to say, Sheila and her parents and grandparents have seen their fair share of angst in this world. I’ve never grown weary of speaking with Gordon’s mother about her stories and am only sorry we have not had time to share a bit more.

Leeby and the children showed up a few hours later and like the attractive little folks they all are, I enjoyed seeing them again after a years’ absence. Despite their all growing another 4 – 5 inches, all personalities remained intact —-Flora – the deliberate, smiling and attractively graceful eldest, Charlie – the ever extroverted man for all seasons and Grace – the youngest but not hardly thwarted optimist of considerable loquaciousness herself. They have been of good company these last few years and shown me always, a good time.

The Adam homestead sits a bit between St. Andrews and Dundee and is a postcard setting itself.

Complete with flowing stream and waterfall, the house rests high atop a hill offering sweeping views of the accompanying lands both under harvest and in woods. To add but further attraction to the space there sit not one but two ponds fed from the running stream.

No time was lost until Leeby’s sister (Jo) and her 3 children, as well as a second cousin and her 3 children came over for what turned into a full on arsenal of 9 (I think) children walking through the property in search of Elderberry flowers to pick and serve as the base for a tea.

Circling the property at a slow pace we arrived at plenty enough flowering buds from which to start the home brew. Dusk was a far ways off at 7PM but Gordon and I headed out to the local pub, the Craigston Inn, to meet a friend of his for a few beers. The local pub is but a 3 mile drive from Gordon’s house through some attractive rolling hills and a place to which I have frequented in the past. Craig is the owner of the pub (although he did not name the spot after himself but rather for the geographic area in which it sits) and he has always been a gracious host.
We passed the man in the car the man who was on his way to meet us, Dave Bowman. Dave was biking his way to the pub and showed up a few minutes later with sweat abrow. Gordon had told me that Dave was an accomplished soccer player in his prime and today would have commanded quite a high salary to play in the professional leagues. The local brews in Scotland hold a more powerful punch in their alcohol content and it was too soon until 1 beer turned to 4 and I was well on my way to another good time after our group opened up to two local farmers, John and David. Turns out John had made his way across the ocean some years back to play golf in our coastside oasis of Myrtle Beach, SC. He loved it all and spoke quite highly of the good times he and his friends enjoyed. Both Dave and John were regular golfers, a fact I like in this part of the world as this, the home of golf, is a country in which the common man in Scotland participates regularly and with great success often.

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