[If you find this useful, please click a few of the advert links - it really helps to keep the websites running. Thank you. ]
"So the duck is called Jasmine?", I asked the security guard, seeking confirmation from a second source. "Jasper", he pronounced. Oh?
"A boy? Have you checked?". He stared at me, in the way a only a security guard can stare. "It's a duck. It's pretty obvious when it's male".
I returned to the car park and saw the pair together, almost using the zebra crossing. That's probably one animal too many in this tale.
Clearly skilled at avoiding paparazzi, I managed few shots of them together. This is the best my old zoom-less iPhone could manage.
We've stocked up with food and are taking the van to Islay for a few days paddling. The ferry is very busy in the approach to Easter and while the booking office said there was no space on the first sailing, the port office reckons they can squeeze us on. We're in the queue.
I've swapped my Nordkapp for a new Valley Etain, a little too big for me, but which I'm looking forward to trying.
One of her customers chimed in, "You should see the queue for icd cream in Port Soy - it goes around the whole shop and down the street".
The sun came out today. And here's the amazing bit. It felt warm. For the first time this year, we felt a hint of what summer might bring.
You grab your chances up here.
Shorts were dug out if drawers, teamed with beach shirts and flip flops, and suddenly the dudes of Aberdeenshire were chillin' in the rays. The beach babes bared even more flesh than usual. I expect Boots will sell considerable quantities of after-sun product come Monday.
We grabbed our chance too. Portsoy to Portknockie is not in Scotland's 50 best paddles book. However, it was recommended in Donald's podcast, and came with a five-star report from a local friend.
Boy were they right!
I'll tell the story of today's superb paddle when I can add the photos. Since it included a near-miss from a diving gannet, which plummeted into the sea less than a metre off my bow, it probably needs it's own entry.
For now we've tucked into dish suppers at Findhorn. If the weather stays as it is, we're planning to head into the Moray Firth tomorrow to see if we can spot the dolphins.
We love wild places. I'm sure you do too. We've managed to organise our lives so we live in one of the wildest parts of Scotland. Yet when three work-free weeks suddenly appear in the diary we want to head somewhere even wilder, to kayak and to bike.
Our juicy, sweet problem is that there's not much wilder than home.
Which is why we had planned to head out to Orkney and then Shetland, the wonderful Northern Isles. Note the past tense.
Todays update forecast from the MetOffice was dreadful. It ammounted to 'bad, becoming worse'.
We wouldn't see the Northern Isles at their best; we'd hardly get on the water; we'd be stuck in our wee van; and we'd pay £500 ferry fare for these dubious pleasures.
New plan required.
Embarrassingly we've never kayaked on the East coast, so that looks like being our playground for the next few days.
I dug out Doug's 'Best of Scotland' book and we'll try to tick off a few of the routes in there, supplemented by suggestions of Donald Thompson in his Aberdeenshire Podcast (I'd link to it, but as this is an email, I can't).
No it will not be as wild as home. But it will be different. And we're looking forward to it already.