Yesterday I travelled from Edinburgh to St. Andrews to visit an old friend. I had expressed a desire to revisit Anstruther (a place we’d gone when I was doing a sabbatical in Edinburgh), home of what I thought was the best fish-and-chips shop I’d visited in the UK, The Anstruther Fish Bar. (It’s won many awards for its F&C; check out the Wikipedia entry). It’s located in the lovely seaside town of Anstruther, in Fife. There is also an excellent pub nearby, the Dreel Tavern, for one needs at least a pint to wash down a fish supper.
But my friend convinced me that there was a newer shop that was even better: The Wee Chippy (that’s about as twee a name as you can get), just a few doors down in Anstruther, in Fife. So to The Wee Chippy we went:
(Click all pictures to enlarge.)
To test the claim, I had the full “fish supper” (haddock and chips), with malt vinegar on the chips. It was delicious, at least the equal of the Anstruther Fish Bar’s product. And there were too many chips to finish (the way it should be):
Off to the Dreel Tavern, a small, dark, and atmospheric place with a real coal fire and real ales on tap:
We then returned to St. Andrews, home of Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1413. In biology it’s famous for being home of the great biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson. His Meisterwerk was the book On Growth and Form, which advanced the thesis that many aspects of animal development and evolution could be understood as mathematical transformations of growth parameters (no specific developmental mechanisms were adduced). It’s a well-written book, and influenced many subsequent biologists, including Steve Gould and those who maintain that things like stripes and other patterns can be the result of simple molecular diffusion, but its influenced has waned.
Any any rate, we visited the Museum of the University, and there was Thompson’s typewriter:
There was also a drawing of two cats by the famous Scottish artist Elizabeth Blackadder, described in Wikipedia as Dame “DBE, RA, RSA (born 1931, Falkirk) is a Scottish painter and printmaker. She is the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy. . . Her work can be seen at the Tate Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and has appeared on a series of Royal Mail stamps.
The Museum and University sit beside the frigid and turbulent North Sea. When I lived in Edinburgh I tried swimming there, but even in the “heat” of a Scottish summer it was simply too cold. But cormorants ply their trade in those icy waters; here’s one drying off after foraging:
Nearby is the world’s most famous golf course—the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which owns the famous “Old Course.” Tourists from all over the world pay huge sums of money to play this course, and at all times of year.
Running along its northern perimeter is a beach that you might recognize:
This is where the opening “running” scene of the movie Chariots of Fire was filmed. Toward the end of the clip you can see St. Andrews, and the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient:
If you are a fan of the Royal Family (a mindset I can’t fathom), you’ll know that St. Andrews is where both Prince William and Kate Middleton went to university, and where they met. There’s a plaque in the museum commemorating their visit.
And, in town, this humorous (and somewhat deceptive) sign in a coffee shop:
“Where Kate met Wills” with “for coffee!” as a remark in parentheses and in smaller type! Well, this is certainly not the spot where the two first encountered each other, and since there aren’t many coffee shops in St. Andrews, yes, I’m sure they had coffee there at least once. But it’s a bit misleading to imply that the Royal Love blossomed in this caf.
Finally, my friend has a lovely tuxedo cat named Amber, whose picture I’m including here. Amber is microchipped and has a “catflap” (what they call a “cat door” in the US), which is programmed to let in only the cat with the right chip. (You can program it to allow entry of up to 32 cats, which shows how crazy some folks are!).
Amber has the distressing habit of catching pigeons in the garden, carrying them through the catflap (they’re almost as big as she is), and nomming them in the house. She eats all of the bird save the feathers and feet. But she’s a lovely cat, and very affectionate for a formerly feral animal. Here she is demonstrating her penchant for feathered prey:
Today I’m in Glasgow to speak about evolution for the Glasgow Skeptics in the Pub (no drinking for me before a talk!). Info about the event is here. Tomorrow I fly back to the U.S. for the end of a long series of journeys.