…a weekend’s holiday in Gullane, North Berwick. East Lothian is stunning, and I had no idea it was even there.
Friday morning, McArthur Glen: Aidan delights in the echoes his shouting makes in the empty carpark, while Carolyn and Megan wait for us in the lift lobby. For me, our holiday was full of happy echoes.
As I buy some HiTech trainers to rest my tired feet, I remember wearing HiTech shoes, and even a HiTech sweatshirt, at school. Uncool – weren’t they were associated mainly with netball? But I recall the sweatshirt at least was because they sponsored my IMO team.
The sun rising red over misty fields beyond our farmhouse B&B reminds me of an early-morning Shin-kan-sen ride in 2001 with Peter, heading back to Tokyo after a Sendai conference past Ukiyo-e valleys of mist and temples, and the reddest sun I’d ever seen. Truly the land of the rising sun – yet an echo here in East Lothian.
Gullane has a konditorei!! Flashbacks to Form 4 German class with Herr Glenny. For the last class of each term Herr Glenny would order proper German cakes from the Konditorei Telle in Mount Eden, and we’d practice our German ordering skills and eat delicious cake – of course my main memory is of the famous Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte, but I’m sure we had others as well. My spoken German has mostly left me, sadly, so in Gullane I ordered in English. No Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte(!) – instead some very interesting alternatives. I had a Linzertorte, apparently one of the very first cake recipes ever, a delicious jammy crumble of a cake. As well they had bread – real bread, served to you by the baker himself! I bought a few loaves, and was impressed by his passion and knowledge: this one is about 10% rye, it’s a sourdough but we use yeast as well so it’s not a sharp sourdough, this one is good for toast, this is my favourite. And when we got them home and ate them they were as delicious as he’d promised. Recommended.
The town shows the definite influence of Edinburgh. Delis and stylish cafés, the artisan baker, genteel inhabitants and occupations. The countryside of rolling green hills and mist, haystacks and ruined castles could be many parts of Britain.
Walking along the white-sand ocean beach beneath the towering dunes recalls Castlecliff and walks with Uncle David, and a family picnic in the scrub behind with my cousins.
North Berwick has a remarkable and surprisingly tall conical hill behind it (North Berwick Law, 187m). I have no idea of the geology – I’d love to find out – but in my mind it resembled “the Mount” – Mount Maunganui in one of the surfing centres of New Zealand, Tauranga.
A drive past the marina at North Berwick after dark – like Half Moon Bay in summer on those evening drives with my dad, after our picnic dinners with soup and bacon and egg pie and carrots and juice.
From the farmhouse, Orion: the first constellation I ever knew, and one that’s visible in both southern and northern hemispheres. It’s also Carolyn and my special constellation – we’re always happy when we see it. It was lovely and dark without the fires of Grangemouth, and the moment we stepped out of the door it was there hanging in front of us. Beautiful.
At breakfast downstairs, the kids run circuits around and around and around the table, giggling and chasing each other (and not eating). Playing under the table reminds me of an embarrassing visit to one of my Dad’s friends in Australia when I was a kid. I got bored of the grown-ups conversation and crawled around under the table in intentionally juvenile fashion, saying “I’m Karen, I’m Karen” (name changed to protect the innocent), pretending to be the friend’s baby daughter. Only problem was, I got the name muddled – and used my Dad’s friend’s name instead! Oops. These kids have nothing to be embarrassed about – they’re enjoying the space and freedom.
Aidan is sometimes scared to try things. Thoughts of St Johns Cadets Camp at Peter Snell holiday camp on Whangaparaoa Peninsula. The flying fox which I was terrified even to go up to, but the others forced me to go on and I did and it was wonderful! Aidan will learn this too – I hope I can help him.
We end the adventure with a trip to Ratho Park adventure centre (EICA) – an adventure itself, although at this visit just for the eyes (we’ll return another day to climb, but the kids played in the soft play). Last time I climbed was at The Castle in North London, with David, Gavin, and the rest of my DC team at the time.
Then home, refreshed, to the familiar.