Part five of my diary/travelogue/waytorememberitinyearstocome, recording a couple of weeks spent travelling around Europe shooting black and white film.
Other parts are here:
Part 1 – Cossington, UK – Wioska, PL – Bratislava, SK
Part 2 – Bratislava, SK – Orosháza, HU – Szeged, HU – Cossington, UK
Part 3 – Cossington – Newcastle
Part 4 – Newcastle to Perth
Perth and Dundee may only be a few miles apart, but we managed to clock up almost 100 as we toured Fife and enjoyed a most serendipitous day.
It felt like a long one.
After a perfect night’s sleep and a breakfast of bacon rolls, we left late for the familiar sites of Anstruther and Crail before exploring the Polish soldiers’ camp at Tentsmuir.
You may of read before that my wife is Polish and I spend much of my holiday time there. Iain, my travelling companion on this trip, also has a connection as his partner’s family also originate from there. The story of the Polish forces that ended up in Scotland during the war is something that we both a connection to and we were keen to investigate further.
Briefly, the Polish forces were evacuated from France as it fell to the Germans during 1940. The airmen flew British planes and famously helped win the Battle of Britain. Many of the ground troops were sent to Scotland to help prepare defences against a possible German invasion of the UK, and Fife and the Tay estuary were seen as prime landing points.
So before we continued with our tour, we stopped off at the Polish war graves in Perth’s main cemetery. Here lie 381 Polish soldiers, many of whom died from their injuries suffered before they were evacuated.
We left Perth and headed for Fife via the UK’s most Northerly motorway junction. Needless to say, I needed to get a picture of what is a spectacular arrangements of roads. The various routes seem to zoom overhead at attractive angles, like one of those 1950’s impressions of how all motorway travel of the future would be…
Too many men in hi-viz, placing cones in the carriageway meant that my stay was curtailed, but even the couple of snaps I fired off from this spot are pretty cool.
We had both thought about how we would soundtrack our trip. Iain’s phone was loaded with excellent BBC podcasts and 6Music shows from Nemone, GP and Lauren Laverne. Mine centred around the artists that have come out of Fife and Glasgow, including the Beta Band and Steve Mason, James Yorkstone, the Pictish Trail, Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian etc.
But mainly King Creosote.
My previous visit to this part of the country was to see Kenny’s ‘World Tour of Fife’ during which he played seven shows, at seven venues around the Kingdom. It was a special trip, with intimate shows in the evenings, after days spent wandering the coastline in spectacular winter light. I fell in love with the small fishing villages and the gentle pace of life, soundtracked by KC’s music.
On that visit, I’d stayed in Anstruther and seen one of the shows in its church halls. It was great to return for a quick coffee and a wander around the RNLI shop, entertained by its staggeringly posh proprietor – “My grandchildren won’t even look at M&S…”
Between Anstruther and Crail is Cellardyke and another wonderful old fishing harbour. We stopped, climbed over the sea wall and gazed silently out to sea.
For two citizens of Leicestershire, the county furthest from the sea in the UK, visiting the coast and seeing the ocean is always a special event. The power of the sea and its endless movement, the smell of it, its accompanying climate are all mesmerising and profound.
We watched storms roll in of the North Sea and head across towards Edinburgh as the waves endless tossed a piece of driftwood on the rocks we sat on.
Half an hour passed.
Throughout the day, I received updates from my wife and family as they travelled back from Hungary to Poland, other than a delay around Brno, their 980km(!) drive had gone entirely smoothly. I was missing them, but loving our trip too.
On to Crail, another venue for a Kenny show last time, and his home village (I seem to remember). We wandered around the harbour and took a few touristy pictures. We made to leave and walked back along the main street to the car. Along the way, Iain spotted some bottled beers for sale in a greengrocers. We thought that they might be local beers and that we should nip in a try some.
As Iain was working out which we should take, my gaze landed on a flyer for a charity event featuring none other than King Creosote. And IT WAS HAPPENING THAT NIGHT!
It would mean a long drive back, but the serendipity was just too incredible not to go.
And so in the time between leaving Crail and returning to see the show later, we headed to Tentsmuir and Tayport to see the remaining evidence of the Polish forces stationed there during the war.
In Tentsmuir Forest, most of the evidence of the Polish camp has disappeared, save for the remains of one building that the troops built during their stay.
At Tayport, the cast, concrete anti-tank barricades are still strewn along the water line, as are the posts driven into the sand to prevent German aircraft landing at low tide.
Via ‘the best fish and chips in the country’™ in a return visit to Anstruther, and a trip to the eastern most point of Fife, we arrived at the East Neuk hotel and paid our five pounds to charity and to see Kenny.
The event was to commemorate ANZAC Day and so he did two sets, the first of Australian songs and later, tunes from New Zealand. Between songs, Kenny told the story of learning ‘…and the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and crying as he rehearsed, so sad is the story it tells. As he performed it tonight, he (and I) were close to tears again – it is a savage tale of the lunacy of Gallipoli – and he had to pause on a number of occasions before reciting the next line.
I was pretty moved by the whole experience. Being there in the first place was extraordinary, but then to see and hear this demonstration of the power of a song (and this wasn’t the nonsense, fake-nailed, hand-fanning bullshit of Saturday night TV) was incredible!
After his first set, we decided to head off as we still had a distance to travel, another photo-opportunity and a beer appointment. We got to the southern bank of the Tay while there was still a little light in the sky, and got to work with a few long exposures of the road bridge. Here’s an example, and the only digital picture that I’ll share from the trip – there were only a few anyway.