When I was a child, I went to the museum with my parents; and I remember marvelling at all the things many Dundonians and visitors have stared at for decades. The Tay Whale – the skeleton of a humpback whale hanging from the roof, which seemed impossibly enormous then. And a large scale model of Victorian Dundee streets, in a glass case. All the children would peer in at ‘street level’ to houses and narrow streets, with tiny figures pushing a pram or walking across cobbles, and rows of twisted rooftops and chimneys: a little world inside a world. Every brick perfect.
Later, I would take my own children there, and we would play hide and seek on all the floors; and strangely – we were never thrown out for being too noisy.
Outside the museum, there was street theatre recently: a dance group who were dressed like extras from a very low budget Robinson Crusoe movie, but once you got used to that, they were well worth watching as they whirled around for half an hour, perfectly choreographed. By turns, they were – mysterious, puzzled, full of incredible energy, and often very funny. And I watched the reactions of people passing by, especially children. They looked amazed, as if they had stepped into a book of moving pictures.
The reactions of children to adults dancing in the street was fascinating; but so too were the reactions of the dancers when children decided to join in.
I could happily spend hours sitting around on a bench with Isobel photographing whatever passed by. Or, I have been known to walk at a snail’s pace around nearby streets and parks and waterfronts, photographing – well, anything. But we also try to move around a bit more energetically, usually cycling, and it may be just a few miles, but there’s always something to enjoy. Like when we went up to Clatto Reservoir in the rain, sloshing along muddy tracks in Campberdown Park, so that we ended up very mud-spattered and looking like real mountain bikers.
This summer, we decided to travel only to places we could easily reach in a day by car or bikes or walking.
A couple of years ago, we had another visit to Arbroath, and I was astonished to find that I had developed vertigo. I was absolutely terrified of falling off the tops of the cliffs. It was weird because when I was growing up I could easily walk along the narrow wall on the side of Seven Arches Bridge, which is about 100 feet tall, and I had no fear. So, this visit, just to teach my scaredy-cat self a lesson, I went to the edge of a cliff and took a few photographs.
When we go to Arbroath, we always take our time strolling around the waterfront, looking at the fishing boats, rows of lobster pots, and the inevitable terrorist seagulls. I thought the ones in Dundee were tough. The Arbroath seagulls are the size of small houses but much faster at diving than your average house.
On this visit, we also walked up to Arbroath Abbey. It takes more than a quick visit to absorb the history there, and I hope to go back soon to learn more.
Of course, St Andrews is another place full of ancient buildings. Yet, for me it always has other echoes: the scene of runners on the beach in the movie Chariots of Fire; and the very best second hand bookshop in Scotland: Bouqiniste in Market Street. If I am in St Andrews with Isobel, she goes to a cafe and gives me a time limit for the bookshop. The last time, I was allotted an hour and ten minutes. I needed most of it.
The other good thing about St Andrews is there is so much sky around the old buildings. Lots and lots of sky, and a wide beach that goes on forever.
There was plenty to see in Anstruther too. Mostly, it is an amazing place to simply unwind and watch boats and watch people watching boats. Or wander around streets which someone must have designed for black and white photographs. And the seagulls are friendly!
I had no idea there was a loch in Forfar. It’s only a few minutes drive from Dundee and it is beautiful. We watched ducks, swans, and briefly – a heron flapping gracefully away across the loch. This is definitely a place to go back to.