25 October 2011--The doom and gloom scheduled for yesterday arrives a day late, mirrored by the dreich weather. I'm sure skipping dinner
last night didn't help. The best thing for it is to get out and move, of course, so it's as well that I'm leaving town. I decide to have a look
at Portobello on the way out. This eastern neighborhood of Edinburgh, named indirectly in honor of the capture of Porto Bello, Panama in 1739,
grew at first around the brick and tile industry, and then became a Victorian-era bathing resort. Little of that remains, beyond the promenade
and the beach itself. I find it hard to picture on a damp and dark late-October day, but I'm told that, after a long down period, Portobello is on
the upswing again. There are arts festivals and the like, and the beach is a popular summertime attraction again, now that modern wastewater
treatment means the place is no longer awash in Edinburgh's sewage (gardez loo!).
Musselburgh, the next town east, looks as though it would be worth a visit...well, another time. I head southeast on the A68, then cut south to see Crichton Castle, a 14th-century tower house augmented by later ranges enclosing an inner courtyard. It has a typically checkered history, some involving Mary Queen of Scots--the castle's lord, the Earl of Bothwell, was implicated in the murder of Mary's husband, Lord Darnley. The castle is closed for the season, so I must content myself with exterior views, and peering in through the grate. Circling it is a bit precarious, sitting as it does on a bluff above the Tyne Water. (This stream is entirely unrelated to the River Tyne, whose valley I am headed for. The recurrence of geographical names can be confusing hereabouts; there is a River Dee each in Scotland, England and Wales, and two in Ireland; while there are no fewer than four River Avons in England alone, and two more in Scotland, not to mention a couple of Avon Waters.)
Drive down the A7, through Galashiels, where I stayed once long ago, and Selkirk, which I've never seen before, and Hawick, which I still can't pronounce convincingly. Pick up the A68 again just before Carter Bar, where I stop to take a last look into Scotland. Then south through Bellingham (pronounced Bellinjum here--I can do that) and on across the Tyne to Hexham. The sky is clearing as I arrive, and my host at the B&B says, "You've brought the good weather with you." "That hasn't been following me," I tell her.
I have a short snooze, then go to dinner at the Forum. Good old reliable Wetherspoon's...only I have a terrible experience, with bad service, a forgotten order, cold food, and someone's half-finished pint never cleared from my table. If this had been my first visit to a Wetherspoon's pub, it would also have been my last. As it is, I'm picking up a general attitude here this evening that Mr J D Wetherspoon himself (if such a person exists) would be none too pleased with.
A good pint--Taylor's Landlord--in a good pub--the Tap & Spile--makes it all a distant memory, from the morning's lousy mood to the evening's lousy dinner. I have three more nights here, as good a place as any to close out my trip.