This is rapidly turning into one of the best holidays for a long time! The weather has been decent; I've been able to do what I like doing most - driving around, seeing many attractive or interesting places, eating out, taking a boatload of photographs. And I mean a lot of shots: yesterday, on a run to Fife, I took 292 pictures. That's rather a lot, and normally I limit myself to under 150 a day. Because no matter how badly wanted the shots are, each one might take at least two minutes to fully process back at the caravan, on my laptop - the initial bulk sift, numbering and copyrighting; then individual tilt-correction, cropping, exposure correction and captioning; and finally bulk backup and temporary filing onto other drives. So if I take 700 photos over a week, that's 1,400 minutes' work, or 23 hours, or a bit more than three hours a night. If as usual I cook and wash up, then there's no need to fill up any time in watching TV or videos, or reading! It might all seem a dreadful chore, but if you love reliving the best moments of the day, or viewing the occasional shot that, as a picture, is more worthy than just a holiday snap, then it isn't a chore at all.
I am, in fact. always busy with things I like doing! Whether at home or away. That's partly why the things I don't like doing so much tend to get squeezed out more than they should. But hey, it's my life, I have no ties, no responsibilities to anyone else, and I can choose my priorities! It's also partly why I am never bored. Well, not unless someone comes along and attempts to make me fit into their ideas of what constitutes a fab time. Please, never trap me into watching films, or listening to rock bands, or poetry recitals. But meals, conversation, galleries, opera, architecture, and a tramp over moorland to see an ancient stone circle - now we're talking!
So what have I been up to in the last three days? Well, on Sunday I went off to the Open Arms Hotel in close-by Dirleton. This is a golfing hotel (or 'hotel for goff', if you wish), and there are plenty of golfing prints and pictures on walls and corridors, with especial reference to the Muirfield course just down the road on the east side of Gullane, where, as it happens, the 2013 Open is taking place in four weeks time. The roadside banners advertising this (as if anyone in Scotland could be unaware!) are already up, and there are signs at Gullane of things being set up, such as huge tents and raised seating for spectators. Because naturally there are pre-championship qualifying matches, a thing to watch in themselves. I think these qualifying matches must be taking place all over the country, meaning England too, because I passed a course in the East Midlands, at South Luffenham near Stamford, at which such matches were being held. There is a Ladies' Open, too, and yesterday I passed the course at Kingsbarns near St Andrews itself, where qualifying matches for women start soon.
I should explain that I don't play golf, and although I can take an intelligent interest in the game, because I learned the basics at school in the late 1960s, and my Dad was a keen player and spectator, it isn't my kind of outdoor activity. But somehow golf - whether it's the bizarre golf circus of the big-money pro game, the unhappy game played by monied social snobs who want to impress each other, or the down-to-earth game enjoyed by ordinary Scottish locals (lucky mortals, with such links to savour) - exerts a strange, poisonous fascination.
And the magic of old golfing words lingers on: cleek, niblick, mashie, bashie, baffie, plus-fours. Some of the golf shops I saw yesterday in St Andrews were playing on this. In them you could buy a set of old woods like the characters in P G Wodehouse's golfing books would have used:as for instance in a short story entitled The Clicking of Cuthbert, in which the main character Cuthbert, a pleasant young man, is in love with a lovely young girl. But his passion for golf doesn't cut any ice. She is much more impressed with literary heroes. Cuthbert makes himself attend reading clubs just to be with her. It's torture to his golfing soul. It's also agony to his heart, because he sees her eyes shining for a rising young author who writes obscurely in the fashionable way epitomised by Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Set, a weedy, limp-wristed narcissistic and obnoxious individual who would have no idea how to hole a ten-foot putt. Then a visiting Russian author is booked. The girl is so excited. Cuthbert is dejected. What good is golf, when visiting Russian authors who write dark tomes full of bleak realism can sweep impressionable young girls off their feet? But wait. The famous Russian, when he turns up at the reading club, seems trapped. He is tired of talking about his Great Works to club after club. He wants to talk about Ze Open. He is a golf player, and has played with Lenin and Trotsky, and beat them - usually with his niblicksky, his favourite club. Is there nobody present who can discuss Ze Open? This is where Cuthbert, from his corner, coughs and expains to all present what the Open is. The Famous Russian immediately embraces him, and places Cuthbert in the limelight. The rising young author wilts, and slinks away, presumably to die. Who cares? The girl's hero-worship is transferred permanently to Cuthbert, despite his yellow sweater and baggy plus-fours, and they live happily ever after, producing children who become golfing legends. And that is why golf is useful.
Back to my Sunday Lunch. The Hotel has intimate dining rooms just for families or small parties to dine in private, all beautifully furnished and very comfortable, but also a public brasserie called Deveaux's. My table was there. Obviously a crisp brown roll and butter to begin with. For my main I ordered Border roast beef, roast and creamed potatoes, creamed root vegetables, broccoli in a white sauce, red cabbage, Yorkshire Pudding, all with a red wine jus and some horseradish. For my dessert, lemon tarte brûlée with a rhubarb compôte. A large glass of red wine, a very pleasant rioja, to drink with the main, plus iced water. As an aperitif, I asked for a gin and tonic, and afterwards I took what remained of that into the lounge, to finish off. Service was rapid, efficient and friendly, for I had several questions and requests. I had a table to myself, but it was in the middle, so that I was surrounded by the other diners, and didn't feel isolated or tucked out of sight. It was an opportunity to be casually smart. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The lounge was one in which you could easily have dozed away the rest of the afternoon. I nearly did. The heavens opened, the rain came lashing down for an hour, and I was trapped! I merely ordered coffee and revelled in the soothing experience of after-lunch hotel life. The loos were brillo. All for £30 or so. I didn't begrudge a penny.
Monday was quite different, but that's for another post!