September 5 – Kirkcaldy


I have been sore every day, of course, since I started this episode.  But when I went to bed the night before after carrying my bag all that way, and when I woke up this morning, it was a new level of soreness.  Calves, thighs, muscles in my back that hadn’t been exposed to stimulation forever, neck, hair, bald spot, feet, bruised ribs (probably from the contortions I had to perform with the tent in the woods).  Turning in bed had been a chore all night and I heard myself moaning several times.  I am not complaining, just describing.  It was a soreness borne of struggle and difficulty of my own choosing, so it was worth it.

I got my things together and headed towards town with no particular idea of where I was going today.  I did know what I wasn’t going to do.  I had enough of the Fife Coastal path.  There was no way I was carrying that backpack for another mile, let alone 11 more miles.  The weather was better, at least not raining.  I saw a couple of coffee shop/bakeries next door to each other.  There was a Scot sitting at an outdoor table at the smaller shop and I asked him which one I should get choose.  He said the one he was at called “Food for Thought”.  Sounded good to me.  I went in and got a seat towards the back which wasn’t very far.  I ordered an Americano and checked out the pastries.  There was a mince pie and a curry pie.  I decided to try the mince since I occasionally don’t mind mincemeat pies.  When you order a pie in Scotland, don’t expect it to be fruit.  It was mince meat, but not mincemeat, if you know what I mean.  Still, I was okay with it.  The only real pie I had in Scotland so far was a great lemon meringue pie at the Jacobite pub in Fort William.

There were about 10 older women sitting at three tables at different times, chatting in Scottish English which is still a foreign language to me.  They can’t usually understand me also because of my accent.  I never considered that I would have an accent from other people’s perspectives.  How egocentric we Americans are.  There was a little drama in the shop.  A woman came in with her husband and sat in the way back (one table behind me) and proceeded to sneeze several times really loud.  The women started looking at each other and muttering.  Sneezy ordered a Scottish breakfast that consists of ham, sausage, blood (I mean black) pudding, eggs and toast and other things.  She was eating it and came up to the counter with the dish and said, I think, my eggs aren’t done enough.  I couldn’t tell what the waitress was saying, not because I couldn’t hear her, but basically she asked some questions about how she wanted it.  Sneezy got upset and turned around with her plate and went back to the table with her meal.  I could hear her banging her silverware around and cussing about her breakfast.  I was a little concerned about having something sharp penetrate my back.  She left and the whole place exploded in laughter and chatter.  It turns out this woman comes in fairly often from quite a ways away because it is a cheap meal.  She complains every time but continues to come back.

I introduced myself to the ladies as I was leaving and told them that I was from Seattle and that I enjoyed watching their camaraderie.  They said that they have been meeting for coffee every morning since their kids were little: 45 years.  Lots of practice.

I still didn’t know where I was going to land later but I figured I would want to go up the coast a wee further.  I went to the Burntisland library.  I love libraries.  In fact, I take a picture of every one I see.  One of these days most of the libraries will no longer exist due to other ways of getting information, kind of like book stores.  The librarian there said that 18 libraries had closed in the County (or Kingdom, if you prefer) of Fife in the past 5 years.  She showed concern about her own branch.  “We are still getting 100 people in here a day” she emphasized.  She was very accommodating and kind; unfortunately that has not always been my expreience with librarians for some reason.  I thought I would help the cause out by getting a Fife library card.  It was possible; all I had to do was show them my passport and Driver’s license and I was now an official member of the entire Fife system.  I used my card and the resources to do a little blogging and figure out where the heck I was going.  I knew I did not want to stay in Burntisland.  One never knows when the next volcano will erupt, but more importantly the town doesn’t even have a decent sit-down restaurant.

I decided upon Kirkaldy because I liked all the consonants in the name, it was only 6 miles up the coast and the train went there directly.  I guess I could have walked it but naaaah.  I could have done St. Monans which sounded intriguing or, of course, St Andrews where golf began but Kirkcaldy it was.  I followed the signs to the Burntisland train station which was now a business building.  They moved the station but forgot to take the signs down.  The guy I asked said “It’s up the hill and to the right”.  I was thinking “Another Hill?”.  As it is, I didn’t get to Kirkcaldy until about 15:00 (3:00 to you Americans).  I did the natural thing: looked for a library and found it exactly one block away which was also a museum and an Art Gallery, the Kirkcaldy everything center.

I asked the staff member at the desk if he knew of any hotels or B & B’s nearby and he said that if you go down there and turn left and then go up the street and angle to the right, there might be some there.  I said Thanks.  Oh, there was also a large cafe in the facility (remember, the everything center) which was quite lovely as they say around here, or is that London?  Anyway I had a treat and a coffee and when I was close to being done, the guy at the reception desk came up with a slip of paper with four B & B suggestions on it that he said were very close.  I called the Invertiel B & B and they said they had a vacancy for £55.  I just now found the pound symbol on this library keyboard.   I took it immediately.  I got lost three times trying to find it even though it was only four blocks away.  Harry, the host, was out looking for me when Linda, the hostess, greeted me at the front door.  They were both very gracious.  They showed me the upstairs room.  All my rooms have been upstairs.  It was remarkable.  There were three single beds, a large tv, an elegant if small bathroom, a fruit bowl, cookies, candy and quite a bit of room.  Since I hadn’t had fruit except for an orange in a gin and tonic I had way back when, an apple I ate four days ago and what I think was a piece of pineapple in the meal I had the night before, I ate all the grapes.

After settling in I went into town and found High Street and followed it down a slight hill.  Lots of Indian and Turkish restaurants (takeaway) and shops.  One street had the Mercat (Market) which consisted of many shops.  I liked the town.  It was much bigger than Burntisland, probably because it didn’t sit on an extinct volcano.  I had dinner at the one real restaurant I could find called the Exchequer which had a wide menu of hamburgers, chicken, fish, etc.  I settled for roast chicken, peas and the unavoidable french fries.

On my way back to the B & B, two women approached me and started asking me a question.  I said “I don’t know anything; I’m an American”.  They laughed and said they were too.  I asked where they were from and they surprising said Seattle.  It turns out they are Nursing Instructors at Seattle University.  I had to tell them that I graduated from S.U. in 1969.  They couldn’t believe it.  I mean they believed that I was old enough to have graduated in 1969 but they were stunned that it was their institution.  She asked what my Degree was.  I said “Only Psychology”.  I said Only because I consider it a dying Science (I use the term Science loosely here), being absorbed by the hard sciences, except for the free will part.  We parted friends never to see each other again but knowing that you need to always be on your best behaviour because you never know who or whom you might run into.

And then I slept.