|Date||Thursday 7th June 2012|
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On my last day, I swapped rain and wind for fog – dense and eerie, so houses, lorries and, once, a whole oil refinery would appear out of nowhere. I heard the sea but could hardly see it. So now, in addition to the waterproofs of yesterday, I now had my fluorescent top on, and my bike lights flashing too, not least because I had to take the busy A90, keeping my head down, keeping on the left of the white line if I could to keep out of harm’s way.
I spent three hours in Aberdeen (I’d not been there before). I recommend the art gallery: no major works but a really wide-ranging selection including Manet, the pre-Rafaelites, and Bacon through to Gilbert & George and Tracey Emin.
I’d also recommend a cup of tea at the Corner Café in Newburgh, north of Aberdeen. It only opens from 10 – 12 on a Thursday (I was lucky to be there just at the right time) and it’s organised by the women of the village, all for charity. I opened the heavy wooden door to find a church hall full of women: eight in their early 30s with toddlers in tow, about the same number of retired ladies and a few others with pinnies serving tea. No men. They turned and smiled at me. “We’re always pleased to see new faces”. Two women waved me to sit down at their tables. I was asked where I lived and what I did, and met a young woman from central China who’d been in the village 6 years, an elderly woman who’d been there her whole life and whose cousin had played in the Canterbury band Caravan, and a rather solicitous Irish woman, recently divorced. “Do you want more tea? A slice of cake? Maybe a biscuit?” A charming community.
I had to finish at a train station. So, it was either 56 miles to Stonehaven or 79 to Montrose. Easy decision! There had been some lovely country road riding on the way into Aberdeen, through Dubbystile, Belhelvie and Potterton, and I did the same between Aberdeen and Stonehaven, cycling through the villages of Cove Bay, Portlethen and the lanes above Newtonhill, tractors ploughing the fields cloaked in fog, a fox stopping in its tracks to look at me, the land rolling on towards the sea and the south.
So, next year I’ll be back to Stonehaven – about 3 days’ ride from the border, I guess. And having finally found a B&B after nine where I asked were full, I’m now heading back home. Till next year.
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