Tag Archives: Arbroath

Worth a second glance

My friend Ann loves browing in charity shops.Recently she was walking up Arbroath High Street, and passing OXFAM,  when she spotted the face of Mr William Gladstone, a Victorian Prime Minister, resplendently glowering out from a china plate. It brought back memories of Ann’s childhood home and a similar plate on the sitting room wall.

Mr. Gladstone was carefully taken out of the window. The price tag said £2.00. The assistant smiled helpfully adding, “He’s a bit expensive but if you like him I wonder if you’d be interested in Mrs. Gladstone ? We left her in the back store room!” I’m delighted to report that Mr. and Mrs. G have been happily re-united for the princely sum of four pounds and hang  side by side with a view of the North Sea.

I’ve discovered you have to be quick and decisive in local charity shops. Last month I sspotted a beautiful big copper kettle for seven pounds. I hesitated, after all my ordinary electric kettle is going strong and it only needs plugging in. This copper one would require a lot of elbow grease and maintenance. However, overnight I reflected on beautiful it looked and warmed to the idea of it in my kitchen- even if I needed to polish it regularly.  when I went back the following day it had already gone to another hearth in Arbroath.

My daughter on the other hand was much more decisive. Doodling around the charity shops in St Andrews she found a solid silver tureen ladle with a 1906 hallmark for £6.00. She sensibly bought it immediately and  Cambridge family meals now have a special splendor.

Recently I was searching for a cummerbund for my grandson who was about to step out in his great grandfather’s dinner jacket. A casual enquiry at the local Heart Foundation resulted in an invitation into their storeroom where boxes of labeled and tidied articles were waiting for focused shoppers. Out of the first box tumbled an incredible range of neckwear; funereal black ties, exotic night-club dazzlers; thin shoe-lace styles, kipper ties, and a psychedelic selection from the 60’s. The next box was overflowing with bow ties: ones that clipped, others that hooked and a few classic ones that need an extra helping hand to tie manually  Finally, success, a scarlet cummerbund surfaced and is currently being worn  with a vintage dinner jacket.

It’s the stories behind these objects that fascinate me. I wonder where Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were living before they were dropped into Arbroath’s High Street?  What amazing parties have the cummerbunds  attended?

This week I’m off to the monthly auction at Taylor’s auction house in Montrose. On my first visit, a couple of years back, I watched open mouthed as assistants manhandled magnificent stags heads off the walls. The bidder was ecstatic. Where were they bound for?  A restaurant? A banker’s Scottish pile?  America?

Other eccentricities for auction have included Polynesian figures, swords, antique pistols, bagpipes, Russian great coats  and bottles of very old whisky. it’s amazing what some people collect.  I feel another blog coming on.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Geordie’s Pond

Scotland and fishing. Synonymous words indeed.

My teenage grandson Stan, a keen fisherman, had come to stay. He was booked for local North Sea fishing trips but this year had his eye on more than mackerel and cod. He wanted to learn to fly-fish and was dreaming of carp, bream, roach, rudd, perch, brown trout and salmon. This challenge required careful thinking and planning. I’ve flown kites, ridden horses, cycled, and scuba dived but I’ve never fished in my life. Think lochs. Think salmon. Think boats. Think reels. Think licences. Think rivers and rights. Think big money.

So where to dip our novice rods? – The Kingdom of Fife, Tayside or Perth? Applehill, Butterstone, Frandy or Orchill?  Sound local knowledge came from Arbroaths’ fishing tackle shop – Geordie’s Pond in Angus.

Think inexpensive. Think small stocked ponds. Think skylarks, and warblers. Think bragging and laughter. Think huge skies. Think fish. At £7 a day we were spoiled for choice.

We hatched a plan and on day two, with a packed lunch and plenty of sun tan lotion, we drove along the winding coastal road, past the turn off for the old fishing village of Auchmithie and along towards Lunan Bay. As we rounded a corner ‘Smiley Fish’ road-signs and arrows indicated we were close to our destination and fulfilling Stan’s ambition.

Our first glimpse of Janet was of an older woman skillfully whip-cracking her line backwards and forwards into the deep blue pond. She had poise and confidence. She claimed she’d recently returned from Tasmania where she’d won the silver medal at the Commonwealth fly-fish and was delighted at the prospect of sharing her joy of fly-fishing with an enthusiastic teenager.

Before I knew it I found a rod placed in my hand and I was part of the action. We began in a nearby field casting the lines without hooks. The tic-toc action of moving the rod rhythmically backward and forwards was mesmeric, and challenging. Too far back and the line hooked in the hawthorn. Mayhem! Too much effort and it landed in a heap at your feet.  chaos! Carefully cast and with the right rhythm it landed straight ahead. Success!

Finally when our arms were getting weary we were allowed to graduate to the pond and, with great ceremony, hooks and glittering iridescent flies were attached to the lines. Using the same tic- toc technique we cast and observed the hooks taking the lines down beneath the rippling surface to lure any lurking fish.

The sun shone, clouds spun overhead and skies expanded into infinity.

The whistling, rhythmic sound of lines being cast was spellbinding and exhilarating. The subtle technique of moving the fly to attract the fishes’ attention totally absorbed us.

Local fishermen encouraged us with stories about monsters they’d caught and ones that got away; moorhens came to investigate and the hours slipped by.

Sadly that day the fish weren’t biting but somehow that didn’t matter. It was such a rewarding experience to learn a new skill and enjoy fishing with my grandson.

Janet retreated into her caravan and monitored our progress from a distance.  We never actually saw her ‘silver medal’  and as one fisherman remarked drily “One can never be certain about things that people claim”. However, we still believed we were coached by a winner and the encouragement she gave to two novice fly fishers was outstanding.

As the sun finished its downward descent and the swifts started to gather I asked Stan, “What would you like to do tomorrow?”  He looked at me in utter astonishment. “ Why, fly fish of course” he said and smiled with pure satisfaction.

So, we did.

IMG_1835

Link

The recent storms reminded me of one of my early experiences here in Arbroath,  so I decided to share it today…..

P1000276

The storm had been brewing all day and as night fell it raged unforgivingly.

Experienced locals had retreated into their houses, battened down the hatches and were having an early Tea before watching something on the telly. I’d watched the sea from the safety of my study window; seen the mountainous waves advancing; surveyed the awesome avalanches of water breaking over the harbour walls; observed the skies deepening with a crimson fury as the sun descended. As darkness arrived and the wind howled even louder I could resist no longer. It was time to experience this storm at first hand. Pulling on my waterproofs I headed into the black wild night.

I was sucked out of my blue front door by the ferocity of the gales on the Shore Head. I battled along the cobbled quayside, keeping an eye out for loose flapping ropes, and avoiding the lobster pots piled high for the winter along the edge of the quay. The yachts, tethered to floating marina berths, bucked and kicked like young colts, the percussive clink of their masts barely audible above the shrieks of the wind. I turned sharply at the end of the quay. The lights of the Harbour Design Shop were still on. I love this place and enjoy browsing and getting my fix of designer goodies. Tonight it was a port in a storm. I fought my way in and like a bedraggled water spaniel, shook the rain off.

A young man, perched on a tall ladder in the corner, was stretching forward and hanging trinkets on a display. As I stepped forward to admire his handiwork a deafening alarm went off in his pocket. Simultaneously a klaxon almost ripped my eardrums apart. I started back with shock as the young man leapt from his ladder, threw open the door and raced into the howling gale leaving me bemused.

Curiosity overcame me and I moved towards the open door. There was no sign of the man. Outside, the sky was pitch black. The Klaxon continued to shriek and strobes of light were sweeping over the quayside. As a townie my first reaction was that it was a bomb scare. The beams of light were heading towards the harbour; cars, vans and four wheel drives all screeched into the car park, men leaped out and raced towards the noise of the Klaxon – the Lifeboat Station!

Most men wore jeans or work clothes. Many, like the young man on the ladder, were without a coat. They had stopped whatever they were doing and come from all over the town. This was an emergency call out. A vessel was in distress at sea.

Lights were going on in the lifeboat station; men were grabbing their jackets, boots and helmets.   In the darkness the sea continued to crash onto the harbour wall. Quietly and efficiently the lifeboat house door slid open and the lifeboat was launched down the slipway into a hostile sea.

What courage.

I recognised some of the men. I’d seen them around the town with their wives and children; some of them had businesses – the painter and decorator, the fish seller, the local builder, and the young guys who enjoy the music in the pub next door.

As I watched the boat head into the darkness my heart was in my mouth. It was terrifying to stand on the quayside and see the lifeboat disappear from sight as huge waves crashed over it. What it was like for the men on the lifeboat didn’t bear thinking about.

I retreated to the safety of my cottage, which had been the home of fisher folk over the last two hundred years. That night I identified closely with the fear and worry families must have gone through on similar wild nights when their husbands, fathers and sons were caught in storms at sea. My maternal grandfather was an Icelandic trawler skipper and I suddenly felt a deep affinity with this powerful sea.

The lifeboat returned safely later having successfully fulfilled its rescue mission. It hasn’t always been so. Many families still have the memory of October 1953 when the Robert Lindsay lifeboat overturned on its way back into the harbour and six of the crewmen were drowned. The sea is powerful and unforgiving at times. The courage of the lifeboat crew is awesome.

As I sat by my fire I felt a pride in the town where I’ve begun to put down roots. I live in a town with individuals who care about others and have such selfless and generous values. For them it was just another day.

http://rnli.org/

DSC05010

and ….. in calmer seas the Arbroath lifeboat comes home.DSC04785

 

 

Last year was a frightening time for Charlie, a two week old seal who became separated from his mother as they swam in wild seas off the north east coast of Scotland. Finally he was washed up on the beach at Arbroathand and became stranded.

A local Arbroath artist, John Burness, was out for an early morning walk when he spotted a white ball of fur on the rocks.  At first he thought it was a small dog and, as he  cautiously approached it, the baby animal growled and then rolled over and waved a small flipper at him.  John saw it was actually a distressed baby seal.  He immediately phoned the SPCA and stayed with the pup, making sure it was safe and no marauding dogs could attack it.

He described how, while he was waiting for the rescue team to arrive, he began talking to the baby seal, reassuring it that help was on the way and that he’d soon be safe. “That’s when I gave him his name  – I decided to call him Charlie ” John said with a huge smile.

The SPCA identified Charlie as a grey seal, his white fluffy fur indicated that he was less than three weeks old because after that the white fur disappears. His mother will have become separated from him and then swum on with the other seals, leaving Charlie  behind to fend for himself in the cold waters of the North Sea.

Charlie was gathered up by an SPCA officer and driven off to their headquarters in Clackmannanshire where he was cared for in their wildlife sanctuary. Meanwhile John went back to his pottery studio in Arbroath.

2016  Update.

Charlie recovered well despite his ordeal in the treacherous North Sea and was re-united with the other seals who frequent this part of the North east coastline.

 

.scottishspca.org/