My posts on the Scotland section of my recent holiday had got me as far as the village of Ceres in Fife. Well, this day trip into Fife was proving to be something of a marathon, having started that morning back at North Berwick. I was all for cutting across country to Anstruther, having fish and chips at the place recommended to me by the couple who had taken me under their wing at Yellowcraig, Vera and Charlie, and then for heading back before I got way too tired. After all, I'm no spring chicken, and one thing you have to appreciate about Scotland is that it's a deceptively big country! It's easy to push yourself too far with travelling.
But whether it was my taking the wrong road by mistake, or Fiona being playful, I found myself on the B939 rapidly approaching the old town of St Andrews. Oh well. I'd make the best of it then. The sun had come out, and I reckoned that an hour's stroll about the town would certainly revive me. And it did.
Just to recap, St Andrews is devoted to two things: golf, and its renowned university. It also has a ruined castle and cathedral, and to some extent it's a seaside resort with a shopping centre that specialises in upmarket Scottish products. The shopping can be serious and useful, or strictly for the benefit of gullable and foolish tourist folk. Here are some photos, to give you a flavour of the place:
It's essentially Cambridge-by-the-Sea, but with a Scottish twist, and the overwhelming presence of the mighty Royal and Ancient Golf Club, who have reigned since 1754. And just as you never, never, mess with the Kirk in Scotland, so in St Andrews you obey the Rules of Golf as laid down by the R&A, rules which in spirit if not the letter extend to ordinary day visitors climbing off the coaches with cameras, or arriving in style in Volvo XC60s. Everyone is obliged to replace divots. No exceptions. See the R&A website at http://www.randa.org/en/Our-Heritage/The-Royal-and-Ancient-Golf-Club.aspx. And the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_and_Ancient_Golf_Club_of_St_Andrews.
That said, you can perhaps detect a certain counter-balance from the University. It's a privilege to be a student here, if only for the seaside views. University life imposes its own standards, its own requirements, and its own atmosphere, and the R&A Greens Committee does not enjoy unchallenged authority in every wynd and side-alley. When I was there, it was obvious that a University Event had just taken place, and that another was due to commence shortly. There were groups of bubbly well-dressed people all walking in similar directions, and they clearly weren't wedding guests. Some were foreign. The mood was palpably a party one. Except of course at the R&A Golf Club, where no doubt touchy male members in kilts were glowering into their whiskies and muttering about the curse of the foreigner in their ancient city, especially if they'd had the cheek to tread on the hallowed turf of the Old Course...
Although the general public can go into some parts of the palace-like Clubhouse - and I wish I'd realised that when I passed by - traditionally, and certainly for the present time, no women may be members of the Club. I can't see that discrimination lasting till the crack of doom, but crusty old gentlemen are surprisingly resilient to change. Muirfield - currently hosting the 2013 Open - is similarly misogynistic. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, both of them men by the way, have complained to the R&A about their no-women rule, but to no avail so far. See this Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/aug/24/gordon-brown-golf-club-female-members.
Not only women get the cold shoulder at the Clubhouse. Caddies do too. A golf caddy is basically an omniscient and soothing mentor who carries your bag of clubs for an agreed payment, and can give advice about how to play a stroke, or even be a shoulder to cry on if the round is a disaster. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caddy. The Wikipedia article suggests that the caddy's lot is entirely a happy one, but I suspect that not all golfer/caddy partnerships go well. Some championship golfers, when under pressure, must occasionally use their caddy as a verbal punch bag to relieve their feelings. The ability to suffer in silence, and put up with tantrums, is presumably a requisite for a successful career in caddying.
And as I said, they are on par with mere women inside the Clubhouse. The R&A relegates them to their own very detached pavilion. Presumably it is their changing-room, and may for some be their living quarters too. It has reflective, see-out-only windows. So reflective, that I was able to tidy my hair in one of them, then take a photo of myself looking instantly windblown again:
Did I hear voices within? Surely I did. Something like this:
Sandy (a caddy): Hamish! Yon lassie in the window preening herself!
Hamish (another caddy): Does she no realise there's men in here?
Jock (yet another): Men in a state of complete undress...she thinks that window is just a mirror!
Sandy: Not a young lassie, though.
Hamish: Och, she'll do well enough.
Jock: Well enough for what, Hamish?
Hamish: Well enough for what I have in mind.
Hamish: Right, first to get their trews back on can open the door and invite her in!
Phew. Good thing I wandered off to see the castle. That was a near thing, and no mistake!