Piqued by the insistent criticism of some of my readers, I have to come clean. I've been slacking off a little. I had been hoping to conceal the fact with charming photographs of wild life and young children. Clearly it hasn't worked.
Fortunately, after a week of indolence, open fires and a hot shower in Aberdeen, followed by two days of frantic flat admin, open wine bottles and a torrential shower in Barcelona, I am back on track, going mano a mano with 20 foot rollers in sub-zero conditions etc. Ok, mano a mano with 3 foot rollers in slightly chilly conditions.
But boy has it got cold over the past week. Last night I went in at Gullane, just east of Edinburgh, and really felt the difference. It's not quite cold enough for ice-cream headaches. But you certainly get a gentle sorbet.
Having made the call entirely wrong in North Berwick, which was overhead and messy, I turned up at Gullane just as it was reaching high tide and all the locals were getting out. Not a good sign. But it was too late to look for anywhere better, so I went in anyway, a short way away from three other surfers who stayed in far longer than I did (Mum)/ soon got out (Everyone else).
Protected from the wind, the sea was as smooth as a mirror, with clear lines of shoulder-high swell peeling round the point into the bay. Just a shame they were breaking so close to the beach. They were fast and hollow, and several pitched me off, but the ones I caught were clean and exhilarating, even if they only lasted a few delicious seconds. The beach faces north, and as the sun started to set to the west, the right-hand waves transformed into bright, moving arcs of power and light, reflecting the reds and purples of the evening sky beyond. Not quite Hawaii, but very beautiful. I caught a last wave in as the light was failing, and made my way up the beach in the dusk, with another big smile on my face.
I decided to camp above the beach, but by this morning the swell had died. Instead I headed back to North Berwick, a very quaint town with two long, rocky beaches separated by a harbour. I went in just after low tide, but even with the tide pushing in, the waves were inconsistent and weak, and compared to the power and beauty of last night, rather disappointing. I swapped to the bigger of my two boards and managed to catch a few fun rides, especially when the wave reformed closer to the beach. But it was quite frustrating, with the peak moving all over the place, and after ten days out of the water, two sessions in 24 hours had taken their toll. I got out happy, if not quite as ecstatic as last night.
P.S. Is that better?
P.P.S. I don't know which duck it is, but I think it might have been the white one, if only for aesthetic reasons. And Juli is a boy's name in Catalonia.