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The Firth of Forth, © Susan Wallace

July 1 – Day of the Midges
Dinner in Culross and return to Laurieston

An impressive garden rises on the hill behind Martin and Judy's house, and the biggest roses I've ever seen in my life are in full bloom on either side of the front door. I didn't think it possible to ever see roses more perfect than those we'd seen at Castle Howard, but here they are. The combination of briny air from the Forth and heady aroma of rose blossoms is intoxicating.

Martin greets us at the door, quipping that it must be the sheep dung they've used as fertilizer this year, when I compliment him on their garden. He leads us to the sitting room where we are soon joined by his lovely daughter Harriet. I am very impressed with this young lady; she has a presence about her – confidence and grace and dignity. She disappears momentarily and reappears with a tea tray. Before long Judy arrives and, saying our farewells to Harriet, we're off to dinner.

The Red Lion Inn is a cozy place with the Firth of Forth lapping at its car park. We settle ourselves in and are immediately tended to by a very kind lass seeking our dinner orders. Fish and chips seems to be in order for me. I haven't had fish and chips since York, which now seems so long ago. Judy recommends the haddock and I take her advice. My meal goes down quite well with a half pint of Tennants lager. I'm finally coming back to life, but decide to indulge myself with dessert, just to make sure. Judy needs to make a phone call and Robin's headed off for the loo so Dana and I slip out the front door for a quick smoke (cough).

We are soon joined by one of the waitresses, who is also a nicotine fiend, and have a very friendly and humorous conversation with her. Quickly discerning from our accents that we are Americans, she asks us where we've been and what we've seen. When it comes to telling her what we'd done just the day before, Dana and I both draw a blank. We laugh at each other for this collective memory lapse and seem to be entertaining the waitress to no end.

Finally, I tell her "We went to the palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born." It's the best I can manage, and I'm sure that she will be able to break through our mental blocks with this bit of information. Nope. She's as much in the dark as we are. I tell Dana I know that Robin will know, but I'm too ashamed to ask her. The waitress' break over, she bids us farewell and ducks back in the door. We follow close behind her.

For pudding I have ordered pecan pie, mainly because Robin had told me that a waiter here had once given her a difficult time over the proper pronunciation of "pecan." Certainly in the States there is more than one accepted pronunciation, but I've never heard it pronounced PEE-ken. I didn't this time either. I order it as puh-CAHN, as I normally call it, and the waitress doesn't blink. When it arrives, warm, with cream, I think they could call it Beelzebub and I wouldn't care; it's the best pecan pie I've ever had.

At this time the waitress we'd met outside appears beside my chair. "I've asked everyone in the kitchen and I've asked all of the waitresses and I've even asked someone here in the bar who used to be a teacher and none of us knows where Mary Queen of Scots was born; I'm sorry." So nice of her to have asked, but now she's revealed my ignorance, or lack of memory ... or something. I can't help but laugh at myself as Robin nudges me and mouths "Linlithgow."

It's late; the sky is beginning to darken as we say our good-byes to Martin and Judy. I've enjoyed their company and wish we could have stayed longer, but we've had a full day and another ahead of us tomorrow, not to mention a bit of a drive back to Laurieston.

The view of the Forth as we cross over the Kincardine Bridge is stunning, even with the oil refinery torches burning in the distance. This industrial touch does nothing to diminish the natural beauty of this area. I'm sated and sighing and so very sleepy as we arrive back at Oaklands.

We had done a quick room rearrangement in the morning before leaving. Since Robin and I are more night-owls than Dana, and Penny had a couple coming in that needed the other single room, I've moved in with Robin and Dana has moved into a double room on her own. Penny greets us in the hallway, though it is getting late. She's wants to hear all about our day and then tells us that she's worried about her cat, Scotch, who has been acting peculiar all day. She thinks he may have been stung by a bee. We all give him a little pat on the head as we pass him on the stairs.

I have a bit of settling in to do in my new room, as does Dana. We say our goodnights in the hall. It's full dark, almost midnight. I don't have the stamina for a shower. I don't have the stamina for much of anything but throwing on my bedclothes and snuggling down under my blankets. I do manage to prop myself up in bed and scribble in my journal for a short while though. Robin is off down the stairs to call her husband and says she'll be right back. It's the last thing I remember. I never hear her return; I've drifted off to sleep.

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