Today I ventured to East Lothian in Scotland, to a fishing town called North Berwick. A humble seaside town of fish and chip shops and young families with pet dogs.
I went with my aunt and uncle on a particularly mild, yet overcast day. It was perfectly pleasant!
North Berwick (translated from Old English to North Barley Homestead) is a place where, in the 16th century, gained notoriety as a place where suspected witches were hung – the North Berwick witch trials. Later becoming a thriving port, a fishing village, now a popular summer holiday destination.
The church bells struck three just as we walked beneath it, which echoed down every street. Startled seagulls sprung from the gables.
We overtook an elderly man who muttered at a young boy skipping down the humble street toward us. A silhouette of a man and his dog appeared out of a dim close that veered off of the high street.
A hardened woman sneered as she stepped out of her shop into my path for a cigarette break. She was wearing a stained apron and was accompanied by, who I assume, was the shopkeeper of a neighbouring store.
We found a sit-in fish and chip shop with sporadic customers. While eating our mushy peas, haddock and fries, the chef came over to our table.
His magnified eyes peered over thick glasses, his cheeks planted with uneven stubble and a half-head of slippery hair.
“You’re lucky to be accompanied by two beautiful women!” He yelled in his strong Scottish accent to my uncle, referring to myself and my aunt.
“I have six daughters! They keep the house full and busy!” And with that he patted my shoulder – his arms were soaked in patterned ink. Then he disappeared back to the kitchen.
After lunch, we walked down the beach where we were greeted by a grinning toddler, tightly wrapped in scarves and coats.
She was balancing on the sea wall with a face painted pink with ice cream, over rosy cheeks and around wide blue eyes.
We walked by beach-goers, where we caught a waft of vinegar-soaked chips at every pass.
The seagulls appeared to dominate the streets, pushing the rest of the birds into the bay. The crows swooped over the shallow waves of the North Sea, and pigeons pecked through the thick grains of sand.
The hounds scampered across the crunchy seaweed, and between giggling children.
A teenager caught my eye, she was wearing what I would expect a young farm boy of the 1920s to wear. With a long green trench coat, knee-high boots and a flat cap.
I later saw a woman who might as well have been a time traveller too; appearing as though she had stepped out of the forties. She was a sturdy woman with stockings and a grey mid-calf woollen skirt, with sensible leather shoes and a colourful neck scarf.
She was walking down the beach as though she was going back to her cottage from her daytime nannying job. Going home to make fruit baps, pork dripping sandwiches, and a cup of strong, scolding hot tea.
Such characters! Just like the buildings that made up the sweet town.