Yesterday – Christmas Day – Jane and I walked along Dunbar’s East Beach, from the Golf Course end along to the Cromwell Harbour. The sand at the top of the beach was covered in snow, showing that the tides recently haven’t been all that high. Just offshore there’s a 299,000 ton oil tanker (I like to be precise) that’s been moored there for several weeks, waiting for oil prices to rise. It’s anchored by the stern, so it turns round with the tides – facing up the Forth on an incoming tide, and out to the open sea when it goes out. In between, it’s facing the town, or out to sea. The lower beach was strewn with kelp thrown ashore by the last northerly storm a couple of weeks ago. At this time of year it’s too cold to rot, so there’s no stink. At the shore line a little flock of oystercatchers pecked in the sand left by the retreating waves. Further along were my favourite winter visitors, tiny little sanderlings and a couple of dunlin, their white breasts a beautiful contrast to the dark grey clouds massing to the north. Offshore a pair of scoters – diving ducks – and flying over them the usual phalanx of herring gulls.
We walked up the ramp into the town, meeting and greeting an old friend on the way – Dunbar’s like that. On the street below the Leisure Pool one house in the terrace is decorated with bright plastic fender buoys, looking very festive, but it’s a long-term feature. Walking along by the closed shops on the High Street we passed a pub that was open, a customer shivering outside smoking. No sympathy here – Jane and I are both ex-smokers since the 1970s, and I’m now allergic to the smoke – my sinuses swell painfully. But it reminded me of the days (four years to be exact) when I was a barman. At that time Christmas Day wasn’t a holiday in Scotland. Shops, offices and pubs were all open, and I had to work – I needed the money, and everyone else did the same. The winter holiday in Scotland was Ne’erday, when everything was shut. Just as well, after the drunkenness that was Hogmanay. At some point, a second day was added to the holiday so we could go into town and buy shirts in the January Sales. Don’t ask me why it was always shirts, it just was. Then Christmas Day became the universal holiday, and later Boxing Day joined it. Now some businesses close for the whole period between the two holidays. A long winter break, to enjoy the company of family and friends, or to get away to sunnier/snowier parts, depending on your inclination.
Whatever you’re doing during the holiday, I hope you enjoy it. An hae a Guid New Year.