Tag Archives: St Andrews

St Andrews

St Andrews Cathedral


It was D’s birthday yesterday, and we went up to St Andrews to celebrate. The picture above shows the old cathedral, built in the 12th century and destroyed in the Scottish reformation in 1560. The University of St Andrews, where I studied for my undergraduate degree, was officially founded in 1410. So the place itself holds a great deal of history. But for D and I the more important history is the one we have a share in. This was the town where we met (ten years ago this coming October), and where D proposed.


The West Port, part of the remaining town walls

The West Port, part of the remaining town walls


We spent all day wandering around, enjoying ourselves. We met A, and after lunch decided to go down to the Botanical Gardens. What follows are pictures from there. Not much commentary to add – it was just a lovely day, and a chance to breathe and be outside after a week of being mildly ill and working over an essay and edits.


St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland

St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland


Squash-like cactus

Squash-like cactus



Space invader cactus

Space invader cactus




Redwood tree - actually quite a slim wee specimen

Redwood tree – actually quite a slim wee specimen


Pastries in Taste, a tiny cafe on North Street. I used to work here  - the coffee is the best in the town.

Pastries in Taste, a tiny cafe on North Street. I used to work here – the coffee is the best in the town.



The entrance to St Salvator's Quad, where a student foam fight is held every year in balmy October

The entrance to St Salvator’s Quad, where a student foam fight is held every year in balmy October



One last picture from our travels. Fields bathed in the lights from Leuchar's train station, a few miles outside of St Andrews.

One last picture from our travels. Fields bathed in the lights from Leuchar’s train station, a few miles outside of St Andrews.





Filed under Uncategorized

The Scottish Play on an island in a firth at dusk



On Inchcolm!


We boarded the minibus in Edinburgh and were driven to the town of South Queensferry, which sits under the iconic Forth Railway Bridge (those of you who have seen Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps might recall it). We disembarked the bus and were ushered, to the sound of bagpipes, to the ferry that would take us out to the island.



Inch means island, and the Colm was a saint of some stripe – the island a holy one. A monastery founded in the 11oos became an Abbey in the 1200s, and it was to be amongst the ruins of buildings from the 15th century incarnation of the Abbey, and hidden from the world war two battlements, that we were to see the play.


First of all the ferry trip through a beautiful summer’s evening, with the sound of Medieval plainsong to soothe our way.  The song itself was called ‘Inchcolm’, we were told. The ferry passed smoothly along the river Forth, the esturine tang of the sea coming in through the open doors.



Then we realised there were witches on board. Three of them, prowling and reading our fortunes, but not telling us them, only laughing. But the island was in sight, not too much longer. We were handed blankets to keep of the chill night would bring, and to make us all one of a piece, an audience wrapped in wool.



Once on the island, we were told, there would be no photography, no phones, no running water for our use. We would be at the mercy of ushers and performers. And so it was. A battle was taking place as we approached. Norwegians versus the Scottish forces.



Those who know Macbeth, might know Inchcolm is mentioned in the opening of the play:


Ross: That now Sweno, the Norway’s King craves composition;

Nor would we deign him burial of his men

Til he disbursed at Saint Colme’s Inch

Ten thousand dollars for our general use.


The Norwegians, when they ruled parts of Scotland, would bury their noblemen on this island, and those who fell in battle should be buried there especially. Canny Scots asking for a nice price for this privilege, having soundly beaten them thanks to help from Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, soon to be Thane of Cawdor, and King hereafter…


Once on the island, as I said, no photos, only absorption in a wonderfully acted play, put on by actors from University of St Andrews. Prior to the production and after, D, A and I enjoyed the familiarity of the St Andrews atmosphere the students carried. Something impossible to describe, this ‘St Andrewsness’, but it’s instantly recognisable to all three of us.


During the performance, we were swept from scene to scene around the ruins, up stairs and downstairs, out on the lawns and into grassy courtyards, in long, high-ceilinged rooms where Banquo walked with blood in his mouth all dripping nearly on our toes as he walked by, away from the stricken Macbeth.


We were witness to the breakdown of Lady Macbeth – out, damn spot, eerie in the echoing space, eerie as she looked my way and I froze, and I swear the hairs on my neck went up – we saw the glint of cruelty in Macbeth’s eye, his vulnerability, his love for his wife disintegrating, his inner crumbling vanity. We were even Burnam wood, at one point, some of us wielding branches as we walked towards the finale.


It was truly the perfect setting and a wonderful experience I hope to repeat one day, though if I never do, at least I’ve seen it once. This was the first time I’d seen Macbeth performed, and it has set a high standard to be followed.



One last, lovely thing. On the ferry back, we traveled with the actors, all know to us now. Lots of friendly chattering and warming cups of tea, and the boat slipping over the dark water and by the lights of both distant banks, and just as we were disembarking, Macbeth (not Macbeth any more, of course, but it’s fun to say this)  threw a nice remark my way – a compliment on my coat. Well, who couldn’t be charmed?  Here’s more information, if you are at all in a position to go and see it.



Filed under Edinburgh

Nostalgia Post






Scans of some of the images I found today in my parent’s garage. Strong nostalgia, but a sense, too, that life has been just as rich since they were taken. And will continue to be. I end on a note of travel, and of solidity, despite the lean.


Filed under 2012, art

The Now at the 24 Project

I have a flash fiction up at The 24 Project – a pop up online arts journal which only accepted submissions for 24 hours, and will only be displaying the pieces online for seven days. I thought ‘The Now’ was a good fit – seeing as that phrase means something like ‘this moment’ or ‘right now’ in English. It’s on memory and on how the internet cannot replicate the fleetingness of immediate experience. It was also published under a pseudonym in The Kelvingrove Review (as it shows in the link)

Here’s an excerpt:


When driving over the haughs of Fife there is that point when you pass the oat mill just outside of Cupar and the air billows with the smell of cooking porridge. The name of the town might remind you of bent copper coins, gold foil, fat leather purses, or you might have forgotten it after passing and now your head is full of the rapeseed fields and the striated sky overhead – light blue to dark to the clouds that have grown so heavy that they have sunk like river-carried silt to the level of the treeline. 


Filed under The Now

That’s Fife

Field by the secret bunker (mysterious, yes, a long post for another day). It is time to speak of only lovely things.


Today D and I traveled around the Kingdom of Fife with his father and stepmother. If you don’t know it, it’s a corner of Scotland that is mostly flat, fertile, and jutting into the North Sea. It has been immortalised in song but mostly speaks for itself in calm, sturdy tones.  I feel it worth bringing up here because right now the Kingdom, and specifically my favourite town of the kingdom, St Andrews, is hosting StAnza, the St Andrews Poetry Festival, which I try to go along to every year. Wonderful words are spoken, ideas bandied, lyricism and toasts float about like shuttlecocks. Tonight, we’ve made it back at midnight from a wonderful evening listening to Jackie Kay, who is seriously the best performer of poetry, a raconteur and all-round wonder-lady.


Yes I may be a bit of a fan girl but just go here, click on the red box on the left and listen to her read some of her poems. Now add way more jokes and a happy back-and-forth with the audience – including her son, who she read a poem for just as he was running off to fetch a spoon in the shape of her grandmother so she could use it as a prop in a later poem.  It’s hard to sum up how wonderful she was, how heartfelt, rich, dancing and deep her poems are, just to say, her memoirs are out in the bookshop and D’s father and stepmother, who had never heard her or read any of her poems before tonight, are rushing to buy them before they leave.


Anyway, I was too busy enjoying myself to take pictures of the event, so I will just leave you with some of the fife countryside, the coastal fishing town Anstruther and St Andrews itself (which has appeared many times on this blog, seeing as it was where I went to university, where D and I met, where he proposed…it is a town we are very much indebted to, to say nothing of the poetry).


Anstruther, pronounced by (some) locals as 'Enster'. Faces the North Sea, was bright and blue as anything today.


Anstruther Harbour, low tide


St Andrews from the coastal approach


Lots more photos to process, but I will have to leave off for now, with the promise of a fuller post another day, of a boat full of daffodils and a terrifying cold-war era bunker, hidden under the pacific Fife countryside.


Filed under 2012


West Sands, St Andrews, dusk



Sunset, Cornish field



Day Break, Cebolla Mesa, New Mexico



Towards the University of St Andrews Library, St Andrews



Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, this morning


Edinburgh Castle, from the Grassmarket, today


Day, Valle Grande, New Mexico


Sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico



“What are days for?

Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?


Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.”
– Days, by Philip Larkin


Filed under Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland, The Now

Where the only noise is the chugging of the ferry of your heart





Filed under art, Scotland