Friday, 9 November 2012


“We climbed a mountain with a whale’s jawbone at the top and went bump, bump back down and there was lots of rabbit poo and I hurt my knee and we ate cake and did mopping on the beach.“

The mad ramblings of our Bairn, following a wild adventure to North Berwick. Yes, that’s right - after a couple of futile attempts to get to the Forth Riviera (on the first occasion we missed the train and got on one to Dunbar instead, and on the second attempt Scotrail cancelled the trains) we finally made it. And boy was it good.

Our jaunt came courtesy of a refund voucher from the national rail franchisee after I wrote a polite letter suggesting they’d let the side down a bit with the whole maintenance works/no replacement bus/no information on their timetables incident.

Hilariously their response, enclosing a refund of the ticket price, was very apologetic right up until the last paragraph when suddenly the tone switches to “you’re a doofus” mode. Apparently our wasted trip to the rail station was entirely preventable because the maintenance work had been communicated to local media, was on posters at the station and was in some exotic section of their website. I read all the local newspapers and hadn’t seen anything; I couldn’t have read the posters at the station until I got there; and when I check the timetables page of their website the night before travelling there was nothing to indicate a problem.

Oh, and before I forget to mention, what is it with the genuinely wacky variations in ticket prices? We took a trip back to the Brighton of the North recently and when I was looking for train tickets for the three of us I was being quoted three figure sums! I tried simplifying the journey - making it Edinburgh to Inverness instead of Musselburgh to Nairn - and suddenly a family ticket costing a whole £90 less was available. Barking.

Anyway, yours truly, Bairn, Wife-features and a pal got to NB and made a bee-line for the Law. It’s a real landmark, a 613 foot high upturned cone, visible for miles around. And it was the Bairn’s first proper hike. She’s only three and a half but she tackled the near vertical toddle with gusto. Wife-features went a bit wobbly at the top observing the dramatic drops so we didn’t linger too long. Upon reaching the summit I tried quickly to shield our pal’s eyes but alas their view was utterly ruined by a handful of quite distant, slowly turning wind turbines. Yup, you’ll not catch us going back to North Berwick any time soon. Horrific. Landscape scarred.

Pushing our revulsion at the turbines deep down inside (by contrast the view of Torness nuclear power station made us feel all cuddly and secure) we bravely contributed to the local economy by ordering some magnificent cakes, bacon rolls and coffee in a very cool cafĂ©, followed by a visit to almost every shop in the town’s bustling High Street.

The Bairn got a book, I got an OS map (how on earth I’ve survived this long without Explorer 345 I have no idea), two pork pies, a dough scraper and some gin, and our pal picked up some clothes. I’m positive Wife-features didn’t come away empty handed but precisely what she bought escapes me. We then went “mopping” on the beach with big stringy bits of seaweed.

The town centre seems to be holding its own against the relentless march of out of town supermarkets. On the train ride home my thoughts were mainly about how some things change and other things don’t. The missus and I last climbed the Law sixteen years ago when we were “courting”. It seems like a long time but looking at photos we took on our most recent trip compared to those we took back in the 90s there’s not a lot of difference. But blimey what a lot we’ve done with our lives in those sixteen years.

The addition of a few turbines to the horizons is like the death of civilisation to some people but I can’t help seeing it as a positive development. Our landscape is man-made and it’s always going to change. There are some places that are special for wildlife, plants and to a certain extent, scenery, and these are protected by designations. It’s absurd to argue about development near these areas because let’s face it you can see pretty much anything from our most scenic hills. It is a much wider view we need to consider - the prospect of leaving future generations with a goosed society.

Sadly those against such positive developments are pretty vocal and the media and right-wing politicians aren’t shy at giving them the oxygen of publicity. I recently spotted an advert in a magazine by the John Muir Trust. I do wonder what the great naturalist from East Lothian who gives the charity its name would make of its current obsession with objecting to wind farms, surely one of our best hopes of reducing the carbon emissions that are doing so much damage to our environment.

The advert warned of a sharp loss of "wild" landscapes in recent times, citing a report by Scottish Natural Heritage. I looked up the report. I couldn’t find the figure quoted but even more worrying is the fact that SNH explain what they mean by "landscape unaffected by visual influence". It doesn't just mean wind farms, which is the impression the JMT are giving - it’s down to “airfields, major bridges, motorways, trunk roads, A roads, B roads, minor roads, railways, wind turbines, overhead lines, offshore structures, buildings, artificial light, extraction industries, plantation forest.“

Like I say, our landscape is man-made. Some things change. Some things don’t. Some of us simply need to get over that and take a wider view.

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