Sunday, October 16, 2005

So yesterday I decided I was done with Inverness and was going to go to Kirkcaldy. It seemed, from the train ride, that I’d get some fantastic views of cliffs meeting the ocean. I wasn’t positive that I was going to do it, but checked out of my B&B this morning anyway. As I was walking to an ATM to get some cash I had this exchange. See if you can make some sense of it.

Scene: Walking along the footbridge crossing Lake Ness. At the end of the bridge two people are setting up what seems to be a video camera. The theory is that they’re doing some news thing.

Guy: Looks like we’re going to be on TV.
Me: Yep. (chuckle).
Guy: [Babbling about tv].
Me: Mm.
Guy: Where are you from?
(Golly, never heard that line before!)
Me: The states.
Guy: I was going to go to the states once, but I had to get a 60-day visa. I can’t even remember my own name and I have to fill out a visa form!
Me: …?

Then he asked if he could buy me a drink some night and I said no. One thing is that’s just a little weird, but second, can’t remember his own name…? That’s confidence-inspiring!

What do these people expect? That I’m going to turn to them, flip my hair, and say “Oh yeah, baby, take me now.”

I went to the train station and got into a very nice conversation with an old woman in line. She’d lived in Inverness for 50 years and said that it tended to be a city unto itself. Even she, after so long, felt a little bit like an outsider on occasion.

On the train there were kids sitting across from me. Three kids, and two mothers. The kids couldn’t have been older than seven. The kids yelled, cried, kicked my chair (and they werern’t even sitting behind me, they moved into the seat behind me and then kicked my seat), whistled and left a mess. Thus I have decided that kids should have their own car. A special kids-and-their-parents railcar. And I have also decided that that car should not be attached to any train that I happen to be riding.

And this is when the kids are being quiet. When they’re being noisy I say they can stay in the same train, but they should be dangled outside of the train by their ankles. Or duct taped to the roof. I’m flexible on the matter.

It was a lovely day in Inverness – bright, clear, cool. And ten minutes into the train ride it was gray and cloudy and foggy. I wasn’t sure until the last minute whether or not I really was going to go to Kirkcaldy. Would it be worth it with the gross weather? I didn’t want to go back to Edinburgh just yet, and knew now was as good a time as ever (since I plan to go west next), so I jumped out at the station.

This town… It’s pretty sad. It has a severe need of a good cleaning. The architecture seems to be suffering from bad contractors and insufficient funding. Whatever is in the classic European style is filthy and in bad disrepair, and whatever isn’t is classic 1930’s – 1960’s ugly.

You know in Inverness they have a horrible 1960’s building that they knocked down a house of Mary, Queen of Scots’ to build? Sheesh.

Anyway. I have yet to find anything manmade that’s really interesting here. I’m staying in a fantastic B&B, though. The room is huge, the owners are incredibly friendly (they let me use their computer to check my email), and for what I’m getting (en suite, satellite tv, two twin beds – I really like to stretch out – breakfast and lots of space) £30 is really rather good. But aside from that? Not so much. I’ve only been here a day, so I won’t damn the place based on just what I’ve seen in town, but man… I’m not optimistic.

And then I did what I came here to do: I went walking along the shore. They have an esplanade along the beach – an ugly cement and brick walkway that was built in the 1930’s and 1940’s so that some people could have employment. A good thing, I think. And I think it might also be a good idea to provide some more employment and give it a facelift. The sea was choppier than usual and waves slammed against the cement wall with sprays that sometimes reached 30’ (I’m guessing – I didn’t have a tape measure or anything). Since the wall was curved if you looked to the left you could watch the spray move up the length of the wall as the wave progressively crashed into the barrier. Highly cool.

The esplanade ends and then you can walk on the sands (when the tide is out, of course). Eventually the beaches become rocky, and if you keep going there’s a ruin of some old fort or lighthouse or similar. It has a fence around it, but the path just makes its way carefully around it. And it’s there where great slabs of rock jut out of the sea and OH it’s spectacular.

And – this is where it gets interesting – I saw a seal! Yeah I did! On the rocks! I wasn’t sure at first, but watched carefully for a while and then I saw the head move. And even though I’d been ready to head back (this had been going on for some time, but I kept thinking I’d see “just what’s around the next corner”) I clambered over beautiful red striped sandstone filled with pockets of water just to get a closer look.

It was cool. S/he had a sweet little face and watched me as I walked in closer. Being on a rock surrounded by water I could only get so close, but man. So neat. The odd thing was that s/he was lying with her/his tail sticking up in the air. I’ve never seen such a thing. A surprise, given all my experience with seals. Which consists of seeing them at the zoo a couple of times. I’m almost an expert.

I took pictures and headed back. A lot of people were out walking – many with dogs who would trot up to me and say hi and ask for a skritch before heading off again. Everyone I passed said hi, which is highly encouraging.

Then I got Chinese takeout and beer and sat in my room. No, really. And it was great.

This morning (it’s now the 18th, by the way – I’m a little slow with this update) I had several hours after breakfast until it was time to catch my train. I walked up and down the main shopping drag because there just wasn’t much else to see. Here’s what’s listed in one of the town brochures:
1. Old Parish Church
2. Beveridge Park
3. Fife Ice Arena (not in town)
4. Kirkcaldy Museum & Art Gallery (the brochure wasn’t terribly inspiring)
5. Library
6. Theatre
7. Sailors Walk (an old house not open to the public)
8. Town House (headquarters of the Kirkcaldy District Council).
9. Pan Ha’ Dysart (apparently a street with old houses, not featured on the map)
10. Ravenscraig Park (not in town)
11. Ravenscraig Castle (near the park, and so not in the town, damn it, because I would’ve liked to go there)
12. Swimming pool
13. Shopping streets/malls

There you go. Those are the highlights of this town. Oh, and 14. the esplanade.

With exciting prospects such as those I spent an hour at the library. I joined their ranks so I could use their slowest connection ever, then hopped my train and went home.

And oh lordy what an evening. But I’m going to bed.

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