Sunday, 29 July 2012

"A little city, worn and grey "

Hello! We're back from a couple of completely blissful days in St. Andrews.  Now St. Andrews is a place full of memories for us -  my Beloved and I are a cliché, we're a St. Andrews University couple.  We met there, started going out, graduated and eventually got married.  And this week we took the kids there. Somehow we hadn't been back for years.  I don't know why really - it's not that far. The Boy had been before as a baby but only for a day, and Miss Mouse obviously had never been, so we thought a couple of days of seasidey fun on the drier east coast would be a bit of fun for them and pleasant for us. And it was BLISS!

We arrived at lunchtime on overcast-but-warm Tuesday, went to the castle, then to Jannetta's, the ice-cream shop:
 Bit of an odd expression on Miss Mouse's face there - concentrating on her tub of ice-cream I think!
This was a bit of a treat for me because although I don't like ice-cream I do like sorbet. It's not often that I can get ice-creams for the kids and a sorbet for myself but Jannetta's has a great choice of sorbet flavours. I had the raspberry sorbet (mmmmmmmmmmmm..), and the next day tried the apple sorbet which was a bit odd but also lovely. They also did an Irn Bru flavour sorbet that I really must try next time we're back there, as well as the more usual mango and lemon sorbets and I can't remember what else.

 After dinner we headed down to the beach. This picture was taken at about quarter to eight, so after Miss Mouse's usual bedtime - but normal routines don't apply on holiday! I don't know what she was doing there - being King Canute? Whatever it was, the kids were having a blast.

Then the next day..

..the sun came out! Oh, it was glorious! We headed straight for the beach first thing and packed a whole summer's worth of summeriness into one glorious day.

Splashing in the shallows (naturally!)..

..pottering around in rock-pools and tracking the tide dropping,

... and building sand-castles.. That's Miss Mouse's first effort in slightly-too-waterlogged sand!

And this is what it looked like through my sunglasses! Pah, who needs Instagram when a pair of sunglasses can provide retro sepia fuzziness ;-).  Is it any surprise I was so happy? And I really was. I grew up very close to the sea (and by 'close' I mean a matter of metres) and I miss it. Most of the time I can ignore missing it, but the moment I hear the waves I can feel myself relaxing.. All this was at the East Sands, the smaller beach, but the one we knew the best having lived close to it for two years.

Later on we went to the West Sands where I took the classic iconic St. Andrews skyline photo - where 'classic' and 'iconic' mean 'that bit at the start of Chariots of Fire'. The trouble with the West Sands though is that it's windy and, dare I say it, a bit boring... I mean it's just a big expanse of sand. Very dramatic though. We did fly a kite for a bit but the kids got a bit fed-up so we headed back to the East Sands and then went for a wee walk around the harbour and along the pier.

Another St. Andrews photographic cliché :-D.

To complete the seaside vibe we got our dinner from the chip shop and ate it sitting on a bench on Market St (outside the Buchanan building where I used to have painful 1st-year French classes and art history lectures, and my brother did an entire German degree). Fish and chips on a sunny evening in St. Andrews, and no need to do a French translation ever again - perfect.

Buckets and spades, sandcastles, kites, ice-cream, fish and chips - see what I mean? An entire summer in one day.

We were staying in a hall of residence (pictures on my 354 blog) - it's used for bed & breakfast guests during the summer break. In fact I worked there as a chamber-maid in the summer before my final year and the summer I graduated. The hall (unimaginatively named 'New Hall', though they've finally got round to finding a proper name for it apparently - when it'll actually get changed I don't know) was new then, in fact it was still being built the first summer I worked there. So it was odd staying there as a guest. I can remember cleaning the room we stayed in!

But it was lovely.  Most of the other guests were golfers, mostly American, mostly older than us - of the kind my Californian friend Kelly described as 'Howards and Marthas' (i.e. the archetypal sweet enthusiastic elderly American tourists) during her JYA year in St. Andrews. I only saw one child apart from our own, but didn't feel they had to be on best behaviour or anything (though they were really good). It was all very laid back and in any case golfers are very absorbed in the topic of golf!

I can't wait to go back!

Oh right, the poem the title quote is from:

Almae Matres - Andrew Lang
(St Andrews, 1862. Oxford, 1865)

St. Andrews by the Northern Sea,
   A haunted town it is to me!

A little city, worn and grey.
   The grey North Ocean girds it round,
And o'er the rocks, and up the bay,
   The long sea-rollers surge and sound.
And still the thin and biting spray
   Drives down the melancholy street,
And still endure, and still decay,
   Towers that the salt winds vainly beat.
Ghost-like and shadowy they stand
   Dim mirrored in the wet sea-sand.

St. Leonard's chapel, long ago
   We loitered idly where the tall
Fresh-budded mountain ashes blow
   Within thy desecrated wall:
The tough roots rent the tomb below,
   The April birds sang clamorous,
We did not dream, we could not know
   How hardly Fate would deal with us!

O, broken minster, looking forth
   Beyond the bay, above the town,
O, winter of the kindly North,
   O, college of the scarlet gown,
And shining sands beside the sea,
   And stretch of links beyond the sand,
Once more I watch you, and to me
   It is as if I touched his hand!

And therefore art thou yet more dear,
   O, little city, grey and sere,
Though shrunken from thine ancient pride
   And lonely by thy lonely sea,
Than these fair halls on Isis' side,
   Where Youth an hour came back to me!

A land of waters green and clear,
   Of willows and of poplars tall,
And, in the spring-time of the year,
   The white may breaking over all,
And Pleasure quick to come at call.
   And summer rides by marsh and wold,
And Autumn with her crimson pall
   About the towers of Magdalen rolled;
And strange enchantments from the past,
   And memories of the friends of old,
And strong Tradition, binding fast
   The 'flying terms' with bands of gold,—
All these hath Oxford: all are dear,
   But dearer far the little town,
The drifting surge, the wintry year,
   The college of the scarlet gown.
St. Andrews by the Northern Sea,
   That is a haunted town to me!


Mrs. Micawber said...

I do love the sound of the waves - I think it's the most relaxing sound in the world.

What a wonderful holiday, and how nice to have sunny weather at last! And to stay in a room you once cleaned and know that someone else would clean it for you ... AND to know that compulsory schoolwork is all behind you.

Raspberry is the best flavour for sorbet. :)

andamento said...

It looks amazing! I haven't been to St Andrews for about 20 years, shocking! As you say, it's not far, so I think we'll make the effort soon to visit. Thanks for the tips about the beaches, we'll try and go to the east one...

Peeriemoot said...

MrsM, I hadn't actually occurred to me consciously, but yes, knowing that somebody else would clean the room was a nice feeling :-D. Though being me I had to make the room as tidy as I could before we left!

And yes, raspberry really is!

Anne, if you park at the East Sands leisure centre you can just hop over the fence to the beach :-).