Little did we know when we told the buyers of our house that we'd be happy to move out before the work on the place in Suffolk was finished that we were committing ourselves to over half a year of living on a caravan site and eighteen thousand miles of driving up and down the country. But it hasn't been at all bad. In fact, although we've known St Andrews ever since Sarah started university thirteen or so years ago, we never really KNEW it until 2011 when we bought the static at Craigtoun Meadows and even then we only knew it as temporary visitors.
Eighteen months later we've grown to love it and if we did not have family in other parts of the country we could quite happily have opted for retirement here. We watch A Place In The Sun Home And Away regularly and it never ceases to amaze me how people hanker for foreign climes when there are such fabulous places in the UK. Anyway, here are the ten things we'll miss the most. The list excludes our family who, it goes without saying, will be missed a hundred times more than anything else.
1. The caravan itself. You may think that being cooped up together in such a small place twenty four/ seven for six months would be enough to send anyone stir crazy but it's been cosy and quite relaxing (when not dealing with 101 queries from builders, architects, decorators, electricians and other suppliers) and there's a lot to be said about a place that takes just an hour or two a week to keep clean.
2. The wildlife. Unfortunately I don't have any photos but since most of the regular caravan visitors have stopped coming during the winter months more and more animals have shown themselves and we find ourselves watching rabbits and buzzards and listening to owls. Recently new arrivals have appeared and we regularly see three deer wandering across the site and even spotted a rare red squirrel
3 The local scenery. Rugged coastlines, glorious sandy beaches, spectacular ancient monuments. Few places can equal what it has to offer.
4 Cycling. We've not done much in November and December but from July through to October we were on our bikes frequently and built up a number of excellent routes raging from a simple ride to the shops to more grueling hill climbs with exhilarating descents.
5 Dining out. There are scores of places to eat in St Andrews and we've tried most but you can't really beat The Seafood Restaurant. We've only been three times in the last six months but it has an unbeatable position above the sea, the food is fabulous and the service is first class.
6 And of course, there's coffee shops too. Forget Starbucks and Costa, our favourite is Mitchells. It's not just a coffee shop. There's a cracking deli, and they serve, breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as our favourite coffees, teas and cakes. The service is great and there's a really buzzing atmosphere. We're going there for their delicious chicken and chorizo bean casserole on Saturday and looking forward to enjoying it with a couple of glasses of chilled wine. The North Point is also worthy of a mention. They advertise it as the place where William and Kate enjoyed coffee and it's usually packed with students enjoying their great teas and some delicious cakes.
7 Metal Detecting. The farmers around St Andrews have been extremely welcoming and I've enjoyed regular days in the fields in glorious countryside and made some great finds to boot. My favourite was this little piece of Bronze Age gold which is currently at the Treasure Unit in Edinburgh but hardly a day out passed without finding something interesting.
8 Fraser Gallery. We only discovered this super little art gallery in November (which is perhaps a good job or we'd be broke). They exhibit paintings by some excellent Scottish artists and we couldn't resist these by Alice McMurrough and David Mackie Cook. Roderick, the proprietor is passionately enthusiastic about his artists and, even if you don't buy, you should have a look at what they have to offer.
9 The night sky. There's virtually no light pollution at Craigtoun Meadows so (although this is not my photo) the sky at night often looks like this. Combine this with the stillness and peace and it's the perfect recipe for relaxation.
10 Last but by no means least, the people of St Andrews. Now I know that many English people see the Scots as a dour race but nothing could be further from the truth. Be it shop, supermarket, cafe, hairdressers, restaurant or hotel we've been served with charm and friendliness without exception. When Marion went into a shop today to buy an obscure battery for my car key, the shopkeeper, on finding that he didn't have one, phoned a competitor for us and asked him to reserve it, Now that's the sort of service you don't find every day.
St Andrews - we'll miss you.