Around 24 years ago, Maggie and I made our first visit to Kinshaldy Beach, on the Fife coast, not far from St Andrews. We parked in the woods, made our way across the sand dunes and emerged onto the long, straight, sandy beach.
Gazing out to sea the next stop is Denmark, so the sense of openness is huge. An expanse of sand, sea and sky that reminds us we are much smaller and more insignificant than we think.
That first time we visited, there were thousands of sea urchin shells all along the beach. We collected several, but were not particularly careful with them and they didn't survive the journey. When we got home all we discovered were pockets full of shell fragments.
We weren't overly worried though - as there had been so many on the beach we knew there would be plenty more next time we returned.
However, on the numerous occasions over the past 2 decades we have been back to Kindshaldy Beach, we have never seen another urchin shell. I doubt we will ever know why there were so many thousands all along the beach that day, but it turned out to be an extremely rare and unusual occurrence.
Last week, Maggie and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of nights away on our own, and ended up in a small cottage in Fife. The first evening was dry and sunny, so we made our way out to Kinshaldy for a stroll along the beach.
And for the first time in two dozen years, we found a lone sea urchin shell. Very aware of the fragility, we were far more careful about how we handled it, and this one did survive the journey